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I followed the entire Budget speech live yesterday. Since November 2016, the tax-paying population of the country has been waiting for this significant annual event, in hope of redemption. The drama, surrounding the announcement, was intriguing – what with rumors of a delay, and hundreds of conjectures on possible policies.
For the most part, the budget has delivered to the rural sector. The overall allocation in agricultural and rural development is 24% higher than the last year. There is an attempt to increase institutional credit lending to farmers. There is a huge thrust on irrigation investments and MGNREGA, provisions for women and senior citizens – all great initiatives. I must acknowledge that it has been a balanced approach, what with rating sharks eagerly waiting to drop India even lower and globalization dying a painful death in the hands of Trump.
At the end of the FM’s speech, I felt a little spent though. Like one might feel if they come fourth on a competition involving thousands, where only the first three spots are getting recognized. I am one among the 56 Lakh people that the FM called out, who make more than INR 10 Lakhs a year and pay their taxes dutifully. I am neither the ‘thug, tax-defaulting, burden-on-the-nation’ rich, nor the poor. So, I watched the budget with the dispassion of a casual reader of Robin Hood literature. My character has no role to play in the prolific political drama.
How I Wish…
If wishes were horses, here are a few budget announcements that I would be riding high on:
1. Lending Rates: The Budget gave no lending rate subsidy to the urban borrower, who is squeezed under the double wheels of a slowing economy and almost steady inflation. Housing, auto and personal loan rates are coming down in the wake of increased bank liquidity, but previous loans have a rate floor. This means that I would be penalized to avail the new lower rates as well. No subsidy means no guaranteed benefit
2. Tax Exemptions: There was a marginal exemption of INR 12,500/- announced for the middle tax slabs. But, that number is a pittance. There was no announcement on the exemption amounts in medical, education or housing loans, that could have eased the pressure a little of the otherwise constant tax slabs
3. Black Money recovery calculation: The FM’s explanation of the need for Demonetization were indirect and vague. It would have been resounding to hear some concrete numbers to establish the efficiency of the financial move from last year. It was disappointing that the government decided to skirt around a declaration of success or failure of the move
All in all though, it does seem like a thought-through and development-oriented budget. If executed sincerely, this should help in infrastructural growth and welfare of the under-privileged.
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