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Budget 2015

THE NDA budget for 2015-16 was expected to bring big bang reforms. Economists have said that the incremental gains from tweaking with the previous year’s figures are not good enough. So did that happen in this year’s Budget making exercise? The views are varied. Some feel the budget is progressive and balanced. Others feel it is pro-rich and tilting towards the corporate sector. There was some murmur of dissent in Parliament when the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced that corporate taxes would be reduced by 5% from 30% over a period of five years, to make investing in India more competitive. Economists agree that large scale investments in infrastructure creation are required to generate employment for the burgeoning youth population under 35 years of age. Mr Modi’s, ‘Make in India’ slogan cannot become a reality if the corporate sector does not invest in India.
For the states of the North East this budget is predictable. Assam gets an All India Institute for Medical Sciences (AIIMS); Nagaland gets an Institution for Science and Agricultural Growth while Arunachal Pradesh gets an Institute for Film Production. The Finance Minister speaks of ‘Mainstreaming the North East economy but this remains in the realm of conjecture as t how it can be done. A budget after all is only a broad guideline. The detailed road map will only be drawn once the Budget is debated in both houses of Parliament and passed by both. The NITI Ayog which has replaced the Planning Commission will become crucial for the states to project their fiscal requirements. Hence it becomes very important for states to make realistic budgets. There have been several instances when states have surrendered funds that they could not utilise. This indicates a faulty budget making exercise. The NITI Ayog must set in place a robust monitoring mechanism to evaluate projects on the ground. This is an exercise that was missing and which encouraged pilferage of funds.
The Budget speaks of building one crore homes for the poor. The NE states would need to ensure they get a share of this allocation. One lakh kilometres of roads would also be built this fiscal. This region suffers from inter – state connectivity hence a regional plan on better road and rail communication is imperative. The Budget mentions the Act East Policy which will look at economic and strategic relations with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam by assisting them to become manufacturing hubs. It is not clear how the Act East Policy would benefit the North Eastern states. The North Eastern states have not found mentions among the list of states which would benefit from allocations to conserve World Cultural Heritage Sites.
Although allocations have been made for women and child welfare the Budget appears to be largely gender neutral if not gender neutral. The agricultural workforce in this country is primarily women but there is no mention of special assistance or benefits for women in this sector. In the Health Sector, the allocations are aspirational and not definite. Health cannot be left to the markets because they will not come in where there are no profits. Overall, therefore the budget suffers from poor allocations in crucial sectors.

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