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Income tax relief, a push for digital infrastructure in agriculture, green policies, and capital outlay for railways were some of the major highlights of Union Budget 2023, presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday, 1 February.
The last full Budget of the Modi 2.0 government is being touted as "middle-class friendly" and "inclusive," which would further India's growth in 'amrit kaal'.
But what do experts across various sectors think about Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's Budget? Here's a look:
'Boost Consumption & Savings'
Abheek Barua, the chief economist at HDFC Bank, said that Budget 2023 had "recognised that it would have to continue playing the lead role in driving investments in the economy."
He added that the income tax slabs might help boost consumption and savings in the economy, benefitting taxpayers.
"The budget also pays heed to the need for fiscal consolidation reducing its fiscal deficit target to 5.9% of GDP in 2023-24 from 6.4% in 2022-23. The resultant lower than expected market borrowing number is likely to bring some relief for the bond market. We see the 10-year bond yield to moderate towards 7-7.1% in FY24."Abheek Barua, Chief Economist, HDFC Bank
'A Balanced One'
Samantak Das, the chief economist and executive director (Research & REIS) at JLL India, said the budget focused on "inclusive development, fostering growth and job creation while keeping the macro-economy in a stable yet growth-oriented mode."
He termed Budget 2023 "a balanced one for the economy," though it missed out on key real estate sector demands.
"It has given more money into the hands of individuals and households which would, to a large extent, ease out the increasing pressure on account of home loan EMIs and rising home prices."Samantak Das, Chief Economist and Executive Director (Research & REIS), JLL India
What About the Social Sector?
Pranay Aggarwal, a sociology faculty at IAS Gurukul, however, said Budget 2023 could have done "so much more for the social sector."
"A major lacuna is that the budget does not have any new major schemes for women, though it does attempt to enable existing women's SHGs to reach their full potential. Given the significant gender gap in India on all developmental indicators and coming from a woman Finance Minister, one expected women's issues to receive greater attention in the Union Budget," he said.
"This budget, like previous ones, fails to address the digital divide and also falls short of the target of spending 6% of the GDP on education, which the National Education Policy 2020 has envisaged."Pranay Aggarwal, Sociology faculty, IAS Gurukul
The silver lining, he added, is that health sector has received adequate focus in Budget 2023.
"Also, education and health of tribals, who are marginalized and constitute about 8% of India's population, has received attention in this budget. Amongst tribals, the most vulnerable have been focused upon. This is important to safeguard our socio-cultural diversity," Aggarwal said.
A Challenge Lies Ahead
Stating that the enormous responsibility of making the economy robust rested on the government's shoulders, author and columnist Aashisha Chakraborty said:
"Being the last full budget before the Lok Sabha elections in 2024, a lot of pressure on fiscal resources will have to be balanced while maintaining a feel-good factor among the people. The worst affected group by the recession in the West would be women and the youth with diminishing job opportunities and exports. It will be a challenge to orchestrate and promote opportunities for the youth, women, artisans, the working middle class, the rural and the unorganized sectors."
Skilling & Reskilling
Anish Srikrishna, CEO of TimesPro, said he welcomed the slew of initiatives introduced by Budget 2023, which emphasises "the National Education Policy's skilling outlook."
"The three AI centres of excellence to enable 'Make AI for India' and 'Make AI work for India' will benefit the development of digital infrastructure and skills in India. At a time when skilling and reskilling are critical for India's youth, the government's recognition of the need for skilling is an encouraging move for the Higher Education and H.EdTech sectors."Anish Srikrishna, CEO, TimesPro
'Pragmatic & Not Populist'
Dr Harivansh Chaturvedi, director of BIMTECH in Greater Noida, called Budget 2023 a "pragmatic" one and not "populist."
"Budget 2023 focuses on seven priorities, which the Finance Minister called the 'Saptrishis guiding us through Amrit Kaal.' These are: inclusive development, reaching the last mile, infrastructure and investment, unleashing the potential, green growth, youth power and financial sector," he explained.
"It is actually the blueprint for India@100 as the focus on capital expenditure continues and further push towards increased infrastructure. FM Nirmala Sitharaman hikes capital investment outlay by 33% to Rs 10 lakh crore for 2023-24. Fiscal deficit target has been set at 5.9% of GDP for FY24. The government has proposed customs duty exemptions on import of capital goods and machinery required for lithium-ion batteries. A move in the right direction for faster adoption of E vehicles."Dr Harivansh Chaturvedi, Director, BIMTECH, Greater Noida
'Affordable Housing for All'
Sandeep Runwal, president of NAREDCO in Maharashtra, said the budget was a "fine balance between sustainable growth and financial stability."
"The Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana (PMAY) is a lofty initiative by the central government, aiming to bring affordable housing for all by 2022. During her speech, the honourable finance minister declared a staggering 66% increase in funding for the scheme, increasing it to Rs 79,000 crore for the next fiscal year," he said.
"This allocated amount is expected to address more than 55% of the estimated deficit in funds for projects under the scheme, providing a huge impetus in providing housing to those in need and bridging the gap between those without access to proper dwellings and those who do. This improved subsidy will ensure that urban and rural homes are constructed within the allocated time frame and according to the set standards."Sandeep Runwal, President, NAREDCO, Maharashtra
Agriculture Accelerator Fund
Abhishek Jain, fellow and director, Powering Livelihoods, CEEW, said that over the years, hundreds of agri-focused start-ups had managed to bridge the information gap for the farmers, "but limited innovation on hardcore technologies."
"I hope that the newly announced Agriculture Accelerator Fund brings an explicit focus on hardware technological innovations to address challenges like pest and weed management, affordable storage, and post-harvest solutions, as well as innovations for the livestock and allied sectors," he added.