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Common budget in ‘uncommon’ times

Common budget in ‘uncommon’ times

The nation was eagerly awaiting Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s union budget 2017-18 presented on Wednesday to see how the government addresses the economic crisis from its recent demonetisation move.

It’s also for the first time, that the Rail budget was presented along with the General Budget in the Parliament. There will be no separate Rail budget from this year. The economic survey report admits that the note-ban move triggered economic stagnancy across the nation. The looming Assembly elections in the five states are extremely significant to the Centre as it will be an acid test forthe Modi government after ‘demonetising’ the economy. The Budget implies that the natural aspect, of political interests surpassing the economic reality during this unusual spell when there is an urgent need of measures for surviving the existing economic crunch in the country, has overpowered Jaitley. The analysis that the change of power in the US and the escalating xenophobia in Europe are adversely affecting the economic growth of countries including India, gains relevance at present. Therefore the Finance Minister’s expectation that there would be a 17 per cent increase in tax revenues, isn’t rational, particularly when the Minister himself accepts that only those who pay salaries, pay the individual income tax regularly.

The budget presented yesterday like any other budget, sparks hope. Political parties will not be allowed to accept donations of more than Rs 2, 000 in cash from individual donors from now on and all cash transactions above Rs. 3 lakh will be banned, permitting only digital modes. Both would help in curbing corruption and black money. The budget promised income tax relief for individuals and small-scale industries bringing some relief for common man. Emphasizing on rural and agricultural sectors might help in luring the poor who bears the brunt of the note-ban. Many of the promises bolster the opposition’s criticisms that the budget presentation was being used for influencing the upcoming polls. Unusual willpower and determination would be required for implementing the schemes.

The government plans to bring about one crore households out of poverty by 2019. Defence budget, and allocations of Rs 1 lakh crore for Railways and Rs 10 lakh crore for the farming sectors are promised in the budget. If these schemes are implemented properly, hoping that the fiscal deficit of 2017-18 would be reduced to 3.2 per cent of the GDP, would be an over expectation.

The economic growth that spiraled down to 5.2 per cent is also expected to rise to 7.8 per cent. There are several measures for the safety and improving the infrastructure of Railways, in the budget. The new budget accentuates on the Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu’s promises during the last budget. Not only have the number of rail accidents been reduced, bigger mishaps have become more frequent as well. Certain recommendations in income hike also bolster the efforts to privatize the Railways.

Kerala’s long-standing dream of an AIIMS has once again been shattered. This year’s budget doesn’t bring any hope to the state. The government’s sluggishness in facing the estimated economic crunch disclosed by the Economic Survey report, the financial insecurity endured by the people and the growth imbalance have been cleverly concealed behind the budget estimates and political declarations so far. The negligence in preventing the budget from being reduced to mere political promises would only deter the faith of the common man in the government.

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