Indian banknotes with Gandhi image

View from India: PM connects with economists ahead of Budget

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Prime minister Narendra Modi held a meeting with economists at NITI Aayog ahead of the upcoming Union Budget. Nirmala Sitharaman, Union finance minister could present the Union Budget 2023-2024 on 1 February.

“Amid Amrit Kaal looking forward to discussions on Motion of Thanks on the President’s Address, Union Budget & other items,” tweeted Pralhad Joshi, Union minister of parliamentary affairs.

The Budget Session 2023 of Parliament is expected to begin on January 31 and will continue until April 6 2022. A total of 27 sittings are expected in a total of over 66 days, with the usual recess. The session will start with an address by President Droupadi Murmu to the joint sitting of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha in the Central Hall of Parliament.

What is interesting is that Modi stressed the need to enhance the presence of women in the workforce, urging the public and private sector to come forward and synergise for their benefit. Modi also lauded India’s digital story. Equally noteworthy is the growth of the fintech industry and its potential to usher in inclusive growth. Let’s hope the upcoming Budget gives a thrust to both fintech and AI.

What might the Budget bring? Some expectations and some forward thinking here. Obviously one wishes that there’s a check on inflation, as well as a growth pattern that doesn’t go down drastically. Generally speaking, the dependency on imports across sectors needs to be lowered. Perhaps a slew of friendly policies could open up the domestic sector, which could generate jobs and attract investors.

The Budget may also give a boost to the agricultural sector. Considering the Year of Millets is an ongoing one, there may be measures to improve farming income. This could help scale up the agricultural sector.

Climate change is a looming issue. The country is the world’s fourth-largest producer of renewable energy, as per the ‘REN21 Renewables 2022 Global Status Report’. It may make sense to push for large-scale application of solar energy through tax waivers. Moreover, the growing need for lowering the carbon footprint has resulted in the recent approval of the National Green Hydrogen Mission. India is the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Appropriately, decarbonisation and energy efficiency are the country’s top priorities. The hydrogen mission could help fulfil the goal. A lot of hope is pinned on the mission, which could lead to a cumulative reduction in the import of fossil fuels and feedstock. Cutting-edge technologies could help in its execution.

It was last year that the National Logistics Policy (NLP) was launched. NLP came into effect for lowering transport challenges and ensuring quick last-mile delivery. It is hoped that the Budget 2023 will encourage logistics infrastructure for better implementation of the NLP. After all, the Union Budget 2022 outlined the logistics sector as one of the seven engines of growth of the Indian economy.

One can’t help agreeing that the pandemic with all its disruptions brought online education to the forefront. Perhaps the Budget will take into account online education and create channels for investing in teacher training online and building an online teaching workforce.  

The previous budget had announced R&D centres at the university level. With this in place, it seems that the future belongs to nations that value research and inspire young India to discover things. Besides research, the space sector too calls for attention. R&D units for space exploration could probably be promoted through conducive policies. Other than that, start-ups constitute a large chunk of the players in the space sector. They need some sort of financial backing to propel forward. As of now, the start-ups tend to attract investors. Maybe something more comprehensive could help to bring more start-ups into the sector.

Modi has often been quoted saying that there are a million problems in India and over a billion minds to try and offer solutions. Let’s hope the Budget taps into this potential.

Budget coverage will follow.

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