Narendra Modi has hit the ball out of the park in the National Democratic Alliance’s sixth budget. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has delivered an Interim Budget likely to boost the government’s popularity ahead of polls that are now just months away.
The Budget includes big announcements such as a major income support scheme for farmers and a new pension program for workers. It also includes a number of smaller measures that could prove popular, including tax relief for India’s lower middle class.
When Goyal got up to present his first budget, it was clear from the outset that it would be aimed at influencing the coming vote by first listing the government’s achievements even while distributing largesse to segments that are unhappy with their lot. This includes small and marginal farmers, the unorganised sector and, most importantly, the voluble middle- class. The middle class, which has been the most pro- Modi segment among voters, got a thank you note for being a major contributor to the exchequer. Under the new budget, which no future government will be able to overturn, the tax exempt limit rises to Rs 5 lakh in the form of a rebate, which means the exemption is only for this year and the tax base remains intact. The game changer decision is obviously the Rs 6,000 annual structured income support scheme for small and marginal farmers (those with upto two hectares of land), which has been backdated to December 2018, and which will be paid in three instalments.
Workers in the unorganised sector get entry into a new pension scheme under which anyone who contributes Rs 100 per month will get a matching contribution of Rs 100 from government. Some 10 crore workers out of 42 crore workers may benefit from this if they choose to contribute.
The tax- free profits for companies building affordable homes continue for one more year till March 2020, which means projects started by them and completed much later will boost investment, jobs and growth.
And despite all these concessions, the fiscal deficit for 2018-19 slips by just 0.1 per cent to 3.4 per cent and next year’s deficit is pegged at 3.1 per cent.
In short, Narendra Modi with his political eloquence and tactical shot has managed to please all, and given the opposition boredom faces, by delivering a budget that achieves the unique blend of populism without messing the fiscal math. It’s worth three cheers!