Vision for excellence
Economic Survey laid down the current dispensation's ambitious target to make India a $5 trillion economy by 2024-25 and the Budget elaborates on the roadmap, allaying the rising inquisitiveness in the Indian psyche over the government's plausibility. Budget 2019 puts India on the developmental trajectory with the objective of reaching a $3 trillion economy in the current year itself. Given the past five years, our economy has jumped from $1.87 trillion back in 2014 to $2.7 trillion in 2019. Exuding confidence in the country's vision and its people, who have made it possible to add $1 trillion to the economy in just five years, especially since it took 55 years for the Indian economy to reach $1 trillion, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman gave her budget speech addressing the Parliament and people of India on the grand Indian vision laden with developmental aspirations and an investment-driven economy. Highlighting the vision for a decade presented in the interim budget, the FM elaborated on each objective stressing the need to step up. Infrastructure development, as expected, was one of the prime agendas of the Modi government wherein the Budget outlined a greater thrust to investment. Besides investing heavily in infrastructure, digital economy, and job creation, specifically in small and medium firms, took centre stage for this year's Budget. Keeping "gaon, garib, aur kisan" at the centre of its efforts, the government stressed on transforming rural lives through last-mile rural connectivity–phase three of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, rural electrification, housing for all with amenities like toilets, electricity and LPG connections, rejuvenation of traditional industries–Bamboo, Honey and Khadi–to have 75,000 skilled entrepreneurs in agro-rural industry sectors, internet connectivity in every Panchayat and piped water supply to all rural households under the newly constituted Jal Shakti Ministry. Infrastructure development will see the initiation of Bharatmala phase two wherein state roads will be developed. As the world's third-largest domestic aviation market, the need for aircraft financing and leasing activities from Indian shores remains high in order to develop a self-reliant aviation industry. The Jal Marg Vikas project will ensure the development of inland waterways to improve logistics, reduce transportation cost and decongest railways and roadways. Railways will require a capital investment of Rs 50 lakh crores until 2030 wherein a PPP model will be promoted for development of railway infrastructure. The indigenously developed payment ecosystem for transport called the National Common Mobility Card will enable people to pay multiple kinds of transport charges, including metro services and toll tax, parking charges, retail shopping and even withdraw money across the country. For faster adoption of electric mobility, phase two of FAME will be rolled out incentivising purchase of e-vehicles and setting up charging infrastructure apart from a tax deduction of Rs 1.5 lakh on EV loan interest and no customs duty on certain parts of EV. A comprehensive blueprint would be developed for all-round connectivity infrastructure constituting gas grids, water grids, regional airports, power grids and i-ways. Measures have been listed for boosting infrastructure financing with a Credit Guarantee Enhancement Corporation to be set up in 2019-20. There is an action plan to deepen long-term bonds market with a specific focus on the infrastructure sector and permitting the transfer of FII/FPI investment in debt securities issued by IDF-NBFCs to domestic investors. Industrial development will witness empowerment of MSMEs and social enterprises where interest subvention scheme for MSMEs will be allocated Rs 350 crore for 2019-20. Social stock exchange to be created for listing social enterprises and voluntary organisations. Make in India to be promoted with changes in customs duties and a dedicated TV channel for startups along with e-verification for establishing investor identity and fund-source in a bid to resolve tax issues over fundraising. A scheme of faceless electronic assessment to be launched along with convenience for taxpayers by making Aadhaar and PAN interchangeable for filing returns. A custom duty hike on fuel by 1 rupee. No change in income tax slabs. Enhanced interest deduction up to Rs 3.5 lakh for purchasing an affordable house. 3 and 7 per cent surcharge to be levied on the income of Rs 2 crore and above and Rs 5 crore and above respectively. For promoting a cashless economy, TDS of 2 per cent on cash withdrawal exceeding Rs 1 crore per annum from a bank account while no charges or MDR on the specified digital mode of payments with the compulsory provision of these modes by large businesses. With the further simplification of GST processes, a fully automated GST refund module to be implemented and the provision of filing quarterly returns for taxpayers having an annual turnover of less than Rs 5 crore. Another recapitalisation plan for PSBs amounting to Rs 70,000 crore to compliment the record recovery of Rs 4 lakh crore in the last four years due to IBC and other measures. With the immense success of Swachh Bharat Mission, the expansion of the same to be undertaken for catering to sustainable solid waste management in every village. Scheme for providing pension benefits to retail traders and small shopkeepers. National Research Foundation and National Sports Education Board to be established. Focus to be given on preparing the youth for new-age skills such as AI, IoT, Big Data, 3D printing, VR et al. Covering all sectors, the Budget has outlined the trajectory for its vision and all that now remains is avid adherence to this roadmap that shall guide India to become one of the largest and high-performing economies in the world.