The finance minister has attempted to present a Budget that will give impetus to the agriculture sector while maintaining fiscal discipline.
The Budget initiatives address the needs of the agriculture and rural sectors: The emphasis given to irrigation, soil health, increased use of organic fertilisers and developing a unified agriculture marketing e-platform are steps in the right direction. The reduced excise duty on micronutrients will help its wider application. The creation of the dedicated irrigation fund with an initial corpus of Rs 20,000 crore will help increase the overall area under irrigation over the long term.
The increased allocation to MGNREGA and the announcement of Rs 5,500 crore under the PM Fasal Bima Yojna are welcome moves. The government is also piloting the direct benefit transfer for fertiliser to curb leakage. However, the much-anticipated demand of increasing urea prices to help in balanced nutrient use has been given a slip.
The price stabilisation fund created earlier for sugar has been now extended to pulses. We look forward to a similar support in the coming years for other critical crops as well. The finance minister has also ensured fund availability for these schemes, through the krishi kalyan cess.
In the financial services sector, we welcome the announcement allowing tax deduction in respect of provisioning of bad and doubtful debts. We hope that the amendment of the Sarfaesi Act and the bankruptcy code will strengthen the financial services industry. We look forward to the notification of Sarfaesi Act on housing finance, announced in the last year’s Budget, to be expedited. There is continued focus on financial inclusion by the announcement of ATMs and micro ATMs in post offices.
The government’s plan to list public sector general insurance companies in stock exchanges will help strengthen the general insurance sector. The announcements for settlement of pending taxation matters will help resolve long overdue cases, and the simplified process of declaration of undisclosed income is likely to bring in new taxpayers.
From an infrastructure perspective, the increased focus on construction of roads and highways and creating an enabling ecosystem for PPPs for projects will have a positive cascading effect in the overall economy.