Interim Budget: With eyes on elections, Govt focuses on growth, poverty and women


Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sithaman addresses the press conference after presenting the Union Interim Budget 2024 at Parliament at the National Media Centre in New Delhi on Thursday (ANI Photo/Jitender Gupta)

Opposition says the budget lacks accountability, vision and ignores unemployment

Our Bureau
New Delhi

The government presented the interim budget for 2024-2025 in Parliament on Thursday with focus on economic policies that foster growth, facilitate inclusive development, improve productivity, create opportunities for various sections while noting that it will pay utmost attention to eastern region including states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and West Bengal to make them growth engines as part of goal to make India a developed country by 2047.

No change was proposed in the tax rates in the interim budget with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announcing that the government will form a high-powered committee for an extensive consideration of the challenges arising from fast population and that it will present a white paper on the economic performance of 10 years of BJP-led government compared to previous 10 years of Congress-led UPA government.

This was the last budget of the Modi government in its second term with Lok Sabha polls expected in April-May this year. Sitharaman, who presented her sixth budget in Lok Sabha, expressed confidence of BJP-led NDA coming to power again.

“In the full budget in July, our Government will present a detailed roadmap for our pursuit of ‘Viksit Bharat’,” she said.

In his remarks following the interim budget, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it was “an inclusive and innovative budget.”

“This budget carries the confidence of continuity. It will empower all pillars of developed India – the youth, the poor, women, and farmers,” he said.

Sitharaman said in her speech that the government is focusing on welfare of the poor, women, youth and farmers.

“As our Prime Minister firmly believes, we need to focus on four major castes. They are, ‘garib’ (poor), ‘mahilayen’ (women), ‘yuva’ (youth) and ‘annadata’ (farmer). Their needs, their aspirations, and their welfare are our highest priority. The country progresses, when they progress. All four require and receive government support in their quest to better their lives. Their empowerment and well-being will drive the country forward,” she said.

Opposition parties slammed the budget with Congress leader P Chidambaram stating that the Finance Minister had not talked about unemployment and that fundamental flaw in the NDA’s approach to the economy and governance is that “it is biased in favour of the rich”.

“It is a government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich,” he alleged. Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge said the interim budget lacked accountability and vision.

In a major announcement, the Finance Minister said that the scheme of fifty-year interest-free loan for capital expenditure to states will be continued this year with total outlay of Rs 1.3 lakh crore. A provision of Rs 75,000 crore as a fifty-year interest-free loan is proposed this year to support the milestone-linked reforms of Viksit Bharat by the State Governments.

She announced that for tech-savvy youth, this will be a golden era, as a corpus of Rs one lakh crore will be established with fifty-year interest free loan. She said the corpus will provide long-term financing or refinancing with long tenors and low or nil interest rates. This will also encourage the private sector to scale up research and innovation significantly in sunrise domains, she added.

The minister said that interim budget contains a number of announcements and strategies indicating directions and development approach for making India Viksit Bharat by 2047.

Sitharaman announced amidst thumping of desks that the Indian economy has witnessed profound positive transformation in the last ten years and the people of India are looking ahead to the future with hope and optimism.

“Conditions were created for more opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship. The economy got a new vigour. The fruits of development started reaching the people at scale. The country got a new sense of purpose and hope.”

She announced that the FDI inflow during 2014-23 was USD 596 billion marking a golden era and this is twice the inflow during 2005-14. For encouraging sustained foreign investment, the government is negotiating bilateral investment treaties with foreign partners in the spirit of ‘first develop India’, the Finance Minister added.

In his reaction, Chidambaram said the Finance Minister id not acknowledge” the rampant unemployment” and did not utter a word on how the government intended to address the problem. “By deliberate neglect over the last 10 years, the government has destroyed the demographic dividend story and dashed the hopes of millions of youth and their families,” he said.

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