In the latest budget announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Indian taxpayers didn't see many reasons to celebrate. However, the government stayed focused on managing its finances responsibly while also investing in important areas like infrastructure and social welfare.
This budget is particularly significant as it's the last one before the country heads to the polls in April-May. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman emphasized the government's commitment to supporting various groups including farmers, youth, women, and the poor, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to as 'castes'.
Fiscal Responsibility: The government aims to bring down the fiscal deficit to 4.5% of GDP by 2026. In this budget, Sitharaman lowered the fiscal deficit target for the coming year to 5.8% of GDP from the previous 5.9%. The target for the following year is set at 5.1% of GDP. There's also increased funding for defense, with a 4% hike to Rs 6.2 lakh crore for the coming fiscal year.
Taxation: No major changes were announced in the tax structure, but investments by sovereign wealth funds and pension funds will remain tax-free for another year. The government expects total revenue receipts to increase to Rs 30 lakh crore in the next fiscal year.
Infrastructure Development: Capital expenditure for the upcoming year has been raised by 11% to Rs 11.11 lakh crore, which is 3.4% of GDP. This investment aims to boost economic growth and create more jobs. The government also plans to upgrade railway infrastructure and implement new economic railway corridors.
Women Empowerment: Several initiatives were announced to empower women, including increased funding for women entrepreneurs, promotion of STEM education for girls, and initiatives to improve women's health.
Housing: The government plans to build an additional 2 crore houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Grameen) in the next five years. A new housing scheme for the middle class is also in the works.
Tourism: The government will work with states to develop iconic tourist destinations and provide interest-free loans to encourage development. Projects for tourism infrastructure will be undertaken in places like Lakshadweep.
Overall, while there weren't any big surprises in this budget, it reflects the government's commitment to responsible fiscal management and targeted investments in key areas for the nation's development.