General Budget 2018-19: Jaitley puts everything on the table

Thursday 01st February 2018 06:58 EST

From the world's largest healthcare programme, to massive spending on rural infrastructure, Jaitley's budget focuses on agriculture, and achieving high growth rate. In his last full year budget before the 2019 national election, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley spoke about a massive funding for rural infrastructure and win over votes from the villages. It is evident that General Budget 2018-19 focuses on faster growth. Presenting the annual Budget in the Parliament, Jaitley said that the Indian polity, society, and economy had shown remarkable resilience in adjusting with structural reforms.

In his first bilingual speech, he reiterated Modi government's promises. “Four years ago, we pledged to the people of India to give this nation an honest, clean, and transparent government. We promised a leadership capable of taking difficult decisions and restoring strong performance of Indian economy. We promised to reduce poverty, expedite infrastructure creation and build a strong, confident and a New India.” He added, “When our government took over, India was considered a part of fragile, a nation suffering from policy paralysis and corruption. We have decisively reversed this. The government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has successfully implemented a series of fundamental structural reforms. With the result, India stands out among the fastest growing economies of the world.

This year's budget, he said, will consolidate these gains and focus in particular on strengthening agriculture and rural economy, provision of good health care to the financially challenged, taking care of senior citizens, infrastructure creation, and working with the states to provide more resources to improve quality of education.

World's largest healthcare plan

In a national healthcare scheme that is set to give the much-talked about Obamacare a complex, Jaitley announced a Ayushmann Bharat for over half a billion of India's poor citizens in a massive giveaway to voters. Jaitley said India's most vulnerable families would be able to access up to Rs 5 Lakh a year for hospital cover through the initiative. The government currently provides Rs 30,000 towards healthcare for poor families, an amount that is insufficient to cover most medical procedures. The country spends a little over one per cent of its GDP on public healthcare, one of the lowest proportions in the world.

“This will be the world's largest government-funded healthcare programme. The government is steadily but surely progressing towards a goal of universal health coverage,” Jaitley said. The scheme would take public healthcare in the country “to a new aspiration level.” Adequate funds, the FM said, would be provided to roll out the insurance programme to 500 million of India's poorest nationwide. He said the government was “seriously concerned” that millions of Indians had to borrow or sell assets to receive adequate treatment in hospital.

Agriculture: Operation Greens among slew of measures

Jaitley has outlined a slew of measures to boost agricultural production and the rural economy, extending an enhanced support for the existing schemes to the tune of Rs 14.34 trillion in the Union Budget. The first subject touched upon by the minister in his speech, he said, “The focus of the government next year will be to provide maximum livelihood opportunities in rural areas by spending more on livelihood, agricultural, and allied activities and construction of rural infrastructure.” He added, “In the year 2018-19, for the creation of livelihood and infrastructure in rural areas, the total amount to be spent by ministries will be Rs 14.34 Lakh Crore from extra budgetary and non-budgetary resources.”

Efforts will be made to link small and marginal farmers to markets, in order to get adequate remuneration for their produce. One of the steps include setting a minimum support price at 1.5 times the cost of production of Kharif corps. Another step include an increase in agricultural credit to Rs 11 Trillion. Other measures include development and upgradation of 22,000 rural markets at a budget of Rs 2000 Crore, and provision of Rs 500 Crore for 'Operation Green' to promote agriculture logistics.

Rural Infrastructure

Ahead of the national elections, the government will make efforts to link villages and rural roads to agriculture markets, secondary schools, and hospitals, under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna (PMGSY). The corpus of funds available to women in self-help groups was Rs 42,000 Crore in 2016-17, Jaitley said, adding that this would be increased to Rs 75,000 Crore by March 2019. An increase in funds for the National Rural Livelihood Mission has been announced under the Rural Ministry to Rs 5750 Crore in 2018-19, from Rs 4500 Crore last year. Jaitley also announced an allocation of Rs 2600 Crore to ensure irrigation facilities in 96 irrigation deprived districts, besides funds to boost fisheries and animal farming.

Railways and Transport

An all-time high allocation to rail and road sectors is committed to further enhance public investment. Modi himself reviews targets and achievements in infrastructure sectors on a regular basis. Railways Capital Expenditure has been pegged at Rs 1,48,528 Crore. 4000 kilometres of electrified railway network is slated for commissioning during 2017-18. Work on Eastern and Western dedicated Freight Corridors is in full swing. Adequate number of rolling stock- 12,000 wagons, 5160 coaches, and approximately 700 locomotives are being procured this year.

A target of track renewal of over 3600 kms has been made, and redevelopment of 600 major railway stations is being taken up. The infamous Mumbai local train network will have 90 kilometres of double line tracks at a cost of over Rs 11,000 Crore, 150 kilometres of additional suburban network is being planned at a cost of over Rs 40,000 Crore, including elevated corridors on some sections. Also, a suburban network of approximately 160 kilometres at an estimated cost of Rs 17,000 Crore is planned to help boost the Bengaluru metropolis.

Jaitley's budget hiked custom duties on several products that are imported in the country. Following are a list of things that will make a hole in your pocket this year.

Imported products that will become costlier

Cars and motorcycles, Mobile phones, Silver, Gold, Vegetable, fruit juices, including orange and cranberry, Sunglasses, Miscellaneous food preparations other than soya protein, Perfumes and toilet waters, Sunscreen, suntan, manicure, pedicure preparations, Preparations for oral dental hygiene, denture fixative, pastes and powders; dental floss, Pre-shave, shaving or after-shave preparations, Deodorants, bath preparations, depilatories, perfumery, Scent sprays and similar toilet sprays, Truck and Bus radial tyres, Silk Fabrics, Footwear, Coloured gemstones, Diamonds, Imitation jewellery, Smart watches/wearable devices, LCD/ LED TV panels, Furniture, Mattresses, Lamps, Wrist watches, pocket watches, clocks, Tricycles, scooters, pedal cars, wheeled toys, dolls’, carriages, dolls, toys, puzzles of all kinds, Video game consoles, Articles and equipment for sports or outdoor games, swimming pools and paddling pools, Cigarette and other lighters, candles, Kites, Edible/vegetable oils such as olive oil, groundnut oil

Products that will become cheaper

Raw cashew nuts, Solar tempered glass or solar tempered glass used for manufacture solar panels/modules, Raw materials, parts or accessories used in making cochlear implants, Select capital goods and electronics such as ball screws and linear motion guides.

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