The lessons of Covid-19 resounded in the third budget presented for the year 2020-21 by FM Mrs. Nirmala Sitaraman. The fact that health crisis can trigger severe social and economic crises, the overdue expenditure on health sector finally shot up by 137% with an allocation of Rs. 2,23846 Rs. in this budget. Besides the success of governmental policy responses to the pandemic, the inherent Indian immunity has furthered Mission Poshan 2.0, Jal Jeevan Urban Mission, curbing of air pollution and measures for well being. The economic pandemic has been given the vaccine of infrastructural doses in roads, railways, airports, ports and other projects. With neither a new post Covid burden nor no new tax slabs leave the middle class untouched yet disappointed. The eNAM registration of APMCs and 1.5 times increase in MSP for additional crops are subtle signals to settle the farmers' protest. Expanding One Nation One Ration, launching of portal and social security for Gig and unorganized sector workers are policy responses to the migrant labour crisis. Setting up of Asset Reconstruction Company to take over stressed loans, hike in Deposit Insurance Cover to mitigate PNB kind crises, and proposal to decriminalise Limited Liability Partnership Act of 2008 are steps to make the financial system robust and secure. Disinvestment of two PSBs 74% FDI in Insurance sector and LIC IPO are furtherance of privatisation agenda. Faceless compliance, First ever Digital Census, e-Management and Governance will improve ease of living index , however the budget document stored in a Tablet forgot to take notice of the peculiar digital challenges that the Educational scenario faced during the corona Crisis and the sector had to settle down with the same traditional provisions.
Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan has been promoted through a variety of measures like enabling Ease of Doing Business for Start ups through One Person Company provision besides other boosts for MSMEs.
The Current Account Surplus experienced for the first time in the last seventeen years due to Covid hit global trade, has been given a lift by increasing the customs duty on imports of products like mobile, charger, auto parts, garments to benefit Make in India.
The outlay of 4.78 lakh crores for the Defence Sector, the highest ever in the last fifteen years supplemented with allocation of substantial funds to Ministry of Home Affairs for Police Armed Forces and training of Bureaucrats exhibit the priority which the government places on domestic conflict management and governance along with the cross boarder issues.
With the visible transparency of the document in including budgetary deficit and honest confession of the absence of any extra budgetary sources, monetisation of assets will be significant avenue to look for as a source of bridging the receipt-expenditure wedge.
Finally as the roll out of vaccines gathers traction and pent up demand rejuvenates the economy, the implementation of this Budget hopefully lives up to its backdrop theme of saving lives and livelihoods.
Author is a professor of Economics, GGPGC, Ujjain