Caveat: I am no economist nor do I claim to understand the world of high-finance. My expectations from the budgets are from the pov of a common citizen.
30% of India is still in abject poverty
I expect (fervently hope) that the need for social protection measures for the poorest is not given up. I would, in fact, like to see a substantial increase in the budget for these; the last budget had token increases which put the outlay lower than previous years in real terms once inflation was accounted for.
Top amongst the myriad schemes to be strengthened is the MNREGA which remains relevant.
I also feel that the food security interventions should continue.
India is fast urbanising and the infrastructure in cities and towns is creaking. I expect to see more funds directed at urban infrastructure. Once more a lot more PPP on the cards as the cash strapped government looks to alternatives to raise resources.
Less (no?) tokenism
I hope to see less tokenism and more serious interventions, even if they are in limited areas. A slew of measures with a 100 crore budget means nothing in context of the country. Some of the areas I would like to see an improved investment in are
- education (increase the spend and focus not just on salaries, which presently account for over 80%, but also on quality of education. Year after year we have reports saying
- environment protection : exploiting resources today only to beggar the nation tomorrow is stupid.
- resettlement and rehabilitation that is concomitant with increasing infrastructure.
“Make in India” is a nice slogan and will remain one unless, inter alia, infrastructure genuinely improves. I would expect to see increased investment in infrastructure: roads, railways, irrigation and power. Most of these will come through the public private partnerships which means that there is need to institute measures to fast track these and make them more attractive.
Better balanced income and expenditure
This is how the rupee came and went in 2014-15
One can see that borrowings and subsequent interest burden is very high. Just imagine – the revenue from customs duties and excise is not adequate to even cover interest payments! Given that there is need to take measures to to reduce debt & interest burden, I expect to see no sops on the duties and taxes offered to individuals and industries. In fact I would expect a push to increasing revenues through
- Widening the income tax net: no sops in medium terms to either individuals or industry
- Increase in services that come under the ‘service tax net’
- Fast tracking public private partnerships in key infrastructure areas.
After a long long time, the union finance minister and the prime minister is NOT saddled by political compulsions of coalition governments. the government has come into power on the plank of ‘development for all’. The budget, while not the only intervention, is a significant pointer to the direction the government wants to take. I wonder what we will actually see.