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'Union Budget 2018-19 is a 'Garibi Hatao Kisan Bachao Budget'' - Prof JD Agarwal
Union Budget 2018-19 is guided by PM's mission to strengthen agriculture, rural development, health, education, employment, MSME and infrastructure sectors feels Prof JD Agarwal, Chairman & Professor of Finance, Indian Institute of Finance and a noted economist.

According to Dr Agarwal, allocations of Rs 14.34 lakh crore for social welfare schemes is highly progressive, forward looking and a step in right direction to achieve "Garibi Hatao".

Targeting a growth rate of 7.5 per cent, maintaining fiscal deficit of 3.3 per cent and programmes to direct the benefits of structural changes and good growth to reach farmers, poor and other vulnerable sections of our society and to uplift the under-developed regions. He further stated that, this year's Budget will consolidate these gains and particularly is remarkable. FM's focus on strengthening agriculture and rural economy, provision of good healthcare to economically less privileged, taking care of senior citizens, infrastructure creation and working with the states to provide more resources for improving the quality of education in the country is appreciable. The Budget presented by the Finance Minister is in tune with the Budget forecasts made by Prof JD Agarwal released a day before the Budget and covered widely by press and news agencies.

Prof Agarwal had forecasted that the Union Budget 2018-19would be pro-people, progressive, balanced and different from the general trend and expected to take care of the aspirations of people. He had said that the Budget is likely to be growth oriented, non-inflationary, with focus on agriculture, rural development,education, employment and investment. In his forecasts (expectations from Budget) he stated that attempts may be made by the Finance Minister to promote affordable housing, give boost to real estate sectors, stimulating growth, promoting digital economy and promoting ease of doing business by removing obstacles through tax proposals.

According to Dr Agarwal, the government's heavy spending would reverse the sluggish growth particularly in industry as well as agriculture. The largesse in terms of Rs 11 lakh crore agriculture credit, announcement to develop and upgrade existing 22,000 rural haats into Gramin Agricultural Markets (GrAMs) to take care of the interests of more than 86 per cent small and marginal farmers and setting 42 mega food parks with an investment of Rs 1290 crore will greatly help in increasing the productivity of agriculture.

Post harvest tax incentive and 100 per cent tax rebate for farming producing companies will help increase production of agriculture products. Raising of MSP by 1.5 times and chasing a target of possible potential of 100 billions export of agriculture produce will help increase incomes of the farmers in due course. Prof Agarwal also appreciated the budget provision for facilitating farmers for installing solar water pumps to irrigate their fields and proposal to extend the facility of Kisan Credit Cards to fisheries and animal husbandry farmers to help them meet their working capital needs.

The Finance Minister has taken care of welfare of poor & Lower middle class families by providing for 8 crore free LPG connections under Ujjwala Scheme to poor women and 4 crore poor households are being provided with free electricity connection under Saubahagya Yojana. This will greatly facilitate reduction in burning of fuel and causing deforestation and the sufferings of women. To fulfil target of housing for All by 2022 ,more than one crore houses will be built by 2019 in rural areas, besides constructing about 2 crores toilets in addition to already 6 crore toilets under Swachh Bharat Mission are also welcome steps feels Prof. Agarwal. This will help in adding to the dignity of Indian women.

He has been equally concerned for education, health and employment. His provision for one lakh crore for infrastructure system in education, setting up new school for planning and architecture, 24 medical colleges and large amount of allocations made for TB nutitional support etc are also welcome features in the budget. He has rightly targeted to provide scholarships to 50 lakh youth by year 2020. This will greatly help youth from middle and lower middle class families to pursue higher education including education.

Finance Minister announcement for the world's largest government funded health care programme titled National Health Protection Scheme to cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families covering approximately 50 crore beneficiaries from 10 crore families and providing coverage upto 5 lakh rupees per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization is a laudable step said Dr. Agarwal. This would help generate more employment in insurance sector. This will also help people from different regions to seek quality medical treatment in their neighborhood rather than going to metro cities and face problems.

According to Prof Agarwal, the Finance Minister has been very concerned about MSMEs which constitute 99 per cent of the companies, by providing them Rs 3794 crores for giving credit support, capital and interest subsidy and for innovations and an outlay of Rs 7148 crore for the textile sector in 2018-19. He has fulfilled his promise of reducing the corporate tax rate to 25 per cent for MSMEs with a turnover of 250 crores covering 99 per cent of the corporate entities.

This year the Budget has rightly focused on generating employment by making a provision of 70 lakh formal jobs and through an investment in infrastructure, road, railways, airports and helipads, rural infrastructure, interconnecting rural with urban areas with a view to boost employment and quality of life of people feels Prof Agarwal. While appreciating the steps taken in the Budget for generation of employment, Prof Agarwal reiterated his suggestions to the Government for setting up of National Labour Exchange as suggested in one of the studies completed at Indian Institute of Finance and published in Finance India to deal with the problem of unemployment in the country.

The provision of Rs 56619 crore for SC welfare and Rs 39135 crore for ST welfare are very welcome allocations.

According to Prof Agarwal, the Finance Minister has been equally concerned for investing in infrastructure by emphasising that infrastructure is the growth driver of the economy, the Finance Minister announced an increase of budgetary allocation on infrastructure for 2018-19 to Rs 5.97 lakh crore and connect the nation with a network of roads, airports, railways, ports and inland waterways opined Prof Agarwal.

To further boost tourism, the Budget proposal to develop ten prominent tourist sites into iconic tourism destinations by following a holistic approach involving infrastructure and skill development, development of technology, attracting private investment, branding and marketing are welcome announcements which will generate employment and result into growth feels Prof Agarwal.

According to Prof Agarwal, the disinvestment target of Rs 80,000 crore is very moderate keeping in view of that a target of about one lakh crores may be attained in 17-18.

To further broadband access in villages, the government's proposal to set up five lakh Wi-Fi hotspots to provide net connectivity to five crore rural citizens and allocations of Rs 10000 crore in 2018-19 for creation and augmentation of telecom infrastructure would help in Digital India programme of the government said Dr Agarwal.

It is appreciable that despite large allocations to social welfare schemes in agriculture, education, health and infrastructure he has been able to keep the fiscal deficit at 3.3 per cent and a growth rate of 7.5 per cent of the GDP without any additional tax burden as the tax rates both personal and corporate remained unchanged.

On the direct taxation, a standard deduction of Rs 40,000 would make salaried class more happy. To tax some items like mobile phones, TV parts would make such imported items costlier for common man.

He has been very caring for senior citizens by giving relief to senior citizens' interest income on deposits with banks and post offices proposed to be increased from Rs 10,000 to Rs 50,000 u/s 194 A and hike in deduction limit for health insurance premium or medical expenditure from Rs 30,000 to Rs 50,000 under section 80D is another benefit for the middle class..

The Finance Minister has done a tremendously good job in presenting this Budget said Dr Agarwal. He welcomed the budget and considered it to be one of the best budgets in last few years. According to him, Budget 2018-19 is welfare oriented, pro-poor, pro-agriculture and rural people, promoting education, taking care of health of the people particularly of middle class and the poor. On the whole the budget is a welcome shift from market driven economic system to the social welfare orientation, where the government takes care of the needs, requirements and aspirations of more than 80 per centof the population of the country said Dr Agarwal.

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