Union Budget 2021-22 aims to boost the economy

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday presented the Budget 2021-22 that aims to boost the economy hit by the pandemic. The economy is projected to contract 7.7% in the current fiscal year, although the government forecasts growth of 11% for the coming fiscal year, after a massive Covid-19 vaccination drive and a rebound in consumer demand and investments.

01 Feb 2021 | By PrintWeek Team

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

The media industry welcomed the Budget saying, “Over all it is a good budget with focus on big spending. This is a positive for the media industry.”

Saket Kanoria, managing director, TCPL Packaging, said, “Have not had much time analysing it, but seems there is no change in taxation proposals which is good and lot of public spending on infra, which is also good.”

For DN Patil of Varsha Inks, however, the Budget is not satisfactory. “The taxation slabs are moreover the same and I am not seeing any measures to curb the inflation. The input costs for inks have gone as high as 55%. Plus, there is a liquidity crunch,” he said.

Pankaj Bhardwaj, vice-president and general manager, Avery Dennison, said “The finance minister has done a remarkable job in delivering a change. It’s unshackled, bold and progressive budget which shall help to get higher investment owing to fundamental reforms, boost demand due to higher infra and agri spend and harness efficiency due to privatisation and divestment. The budget also furthers Atmanirbhar Bharat agenda and structurally changes long due spend on healthcare infrastructure. These provisions should help improve consumer as well as investor investment.”

He added, “I hope the government is able to walk the talk on execution as its execution ultimately holds the key for these key announcements to materialise and show impact on our economy.”

Vinay Kaushal of Provin Technos said, “Given the present situation, this is the best foot forward from the government. Leaving populist approach and looking at strengthening the infrastructure in multiple sectors is a sincere effort for welfare of all. Let’s hope this translates into strength in coming times.”

Kuldeep Malhotra, director and vice-president, sales, Konica Minolta Business Solutions India, said, “We are happy to see the government’s focus on the adoption of technology in the budget 2021. Advancements like data analytics, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning is a great step towards the technological development of the country. The extension of the tax holiday by one year is equally a welcome step that will give businesses more time to recuperate from the losses caused by Covid-19 and help them steer back to the pre-pandemic days. The motive of the government’s minimum government, maximum governance will provide a hold of trust to the society. The steps taken are providing ease of business for the organisations.”

“As expected, the core needs of the economy, coming out of a pandemic-hit year, take prominence in the Union Budget 2021. However, long-term, the budget focuses on the D in India – standing for both development and digitisation. The progressive budget lays the roadmap for greater digitisation in governance. A budget presented and disseminated in a digital format for the first time to a digital census will pave the way for the government to serve citizens through technology and data more seamlessly. The promise of ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ can only be realised through greater investments in technology and focus on greater R&D and innovation – which the budget does,” said Leo Joseph, managing director, Xerox India.

In a first, keeping with the government’s drive to go digital, the finance minister presented the budget in a tablet, instead of the traditional printed document. The traditional printing method, which engages 100 persons was skipped due to the Covid pandemic. While the finance minister read from a tablet, the MPs will get soft copies of the document.

During her presentation, the finance minister said, “We are ready to discuss the three farm reform bills clause by clause. I still believe that dialogue is the only solution.”

Sitharaman also said that accounting of government expenditure and revenue statements are now a lot more transparent and open. She added, “Our fiscal deficit which started at 3.5% during February 2020 has increased to 9.5% of GDP, so we have spent, we have spent and we have spent. At the same time, we have given a clear glide path for deficit management.”

The finance minister said, “The Budget comes at a time when all of us decided to give impetus to the economy and that impetus, we thought, would be qualitatively spent and give necessary demand push if we choose to spend big on infrastructure… This Budget will boost economy.”

Meanwhile, India will spend Rs 64,180-crore on a programme to improve its health infrastructure over six years. The health and wellness budget is allocated at Rs 2,83,846-trillion, that is, 137% greater than last year.

Keeping up with ‘going digital’ theme, the Budget also proposed to increase threshold for tax audit to Rs 10-crore against Rs 5-crore for those transacting 95% digitally.

Mobile phone prices to rise marginally after import duty levy on some parts.  

The government is exploring options to make India Post Payments Bank viable, which include infusing about Rs 2,000 crore into it and merging the institution with regional rural banks (RRBs). The payments bank, launched in January 2017, has not been doing well as a standalone entity and needs to be recapitalised, said an official in the know.

In the education sector, 5,000 schools to be strengthened as per National Education Policy and 100 new Sainik schools to be set up in partnership with NGOs. The Budget also announced setting up of a central university in Leh.

Industry Tweets

Anand Mahindra, chairman, Mahindra Group, tweets: “In a time of unprecedented economic stress, the government’s responsibility was to spend enough to revive the economy or else face enormous human suffering. So, I had one expectation from this budget: that we should be very liberal in terms of the targeted fiscal deficit. Box ticked.”

Harsh Goenka, chairman, RPG Enterprises, tweets: “Combination of Pujara and Pant innings - consistency and flamboyance! Steady focus on infra, commercial laws, ease of business with big shots of monetising PSU assets, new divestments, insurance FDI. India won in Australia. Now India shall rise above in new world order!”

Anil Agarwal, executive chairman, Vedanta Resources tweets: “Congratulations to @narendramodi and FM @nsitharaman for a very reformist #Budget2021 with many big ideas including strategic disinvestment of two public sector banks & one insurance company. Thrust on infrastructure will boost growth.”