Here are some of the highlights of Budget 2024

From cervical cancer vaccination to ‘Lakhpati Didi’ to rooftop solarisation, here are some key takeaways from Nirmala Sitharaman’s speech

It was a ‘short and sweet’ Budget speech by Union Minister of Finance, Nirmala Sitharaman, a user on microblogging websiteX (formerly Twitter) commented after the minister delivered the interim Budget 2024 in Parliament on February 1, 2024.

“Inflation remains a concern,” the The Indian Economy: A review, released by the Department of Economic Affairs recently, stated. There was no Economic Survey this year and the government presented an interim budget, keeping in mind the impending general elections.

“In December 2019, household financial assets were 86.2 per cent of GDP; liabilities were 33.4 per cent of GDP. In March 2023, these numbers were 103.1 per cent and 37.6 per cent, respectively. So, Net Financial Assets of households were 52.8 per cent of GDP in December 2019, and by March 2023, it had improved to 65.5 per cent of GDP,” according to the The Indian Economy: A review.

The assessment added, “During the period 2009-2014, the government tried to sustain high growth by running high fiscal deficits and keeping monetary policy too loose for long. Nominal GDP growth was high because of high inflation. India experienced annual double-digit inflation rates for five years from 2009 to 2014. The country had to contend with high twin deficits — both fiscal deficit (4.9 per cent in FY13) and current account deficit (4.8 per cent in FY13) — and the rupee was overvalued. It all came to a head in 2013 and the Indian rupee crashed against the US dollar. Between 2009 and 2014, the Indian rupee depreciated annually by 5.9 per cent. Economic growth stalled.”

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“From the lens of spending, the rising productivity of social sector spending has been coupled with a focus on universal access to basic amenities. The Union government expenditure on social services has increased at a CAGR of 5.9 per cent between FY12 and FY23, while the capital expenditure on social services has grown by 8.1 per cent CAGR over the same period, indicating the creation of societal assets,” according to The Indian Economy: A Review.

Here are some of the key takeaways of the budget which comes on the cusp of the general elections in April-May this year:

1. Sitharaman said there were only four ‘castes’ that were the focus of the Narendra Modi government:Gareeb (poor), Mahilayein(women), Yuva (youth) andAnnadaata (farmers).

2. Poverty eradication through the earlier entitlement policy was not effective, the finance minister said.

3. Multi-dimensional poverty finally appeared on the government’s progress report. India has not conducted an income poverty assessment since 2011. This survey is used to identify the poor. Multi-dimensional poverty that covers access to education, health and other development parameters is to supplement the income poverty data to assess overall development.

4. There has been a 50 per cent increase in Indians’ average income in the last decade, claimed Sitharaman.

5. On rooftop solarisation, the minister said a crore (10 million) households will get up to 300 units of free electricity every month.

6. Cervical cancer vaccination will be implemented for girl children from 9 to 14 years.

7. The Ayushman Bharat scheme is to be extended to all ASHA workers.

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8. The Nano-DAP (Diammonium Phosphate) scheme will be implemented in all agro-climatic zones.

9. The Centre also committed to a comprehensive programme to help dairy farmers.

10. Efforts are also on to control foot-and-mouth disease.

11. Sea food exports since 2014 have doubled, claimed the finance minister. Limit under the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana is to be extended to 5 tonnes per hectare, from 3 tonnes.

12. 83 lakh (8.3 million) self-help groups are transforming the rural social-economic landscape, she added.

13. TheLakhpati Didi schemewill now target three crore women.

14. The Centre will establish a Rs 1 lakh crore corpus for sunrise sectors.

15. The minister announced a Viability Gap Funding for 1 GW offshore wind projects to help India achieve Net Zero by 2070.

16. She also announced coal gasification and liquefaction for 100 metric tonnes by 2030.

17. The electric vehicle ecosystem will be strengthened, and greater adoption of e-buses will be encouraged through payments, said Sitharaman.

18. A scheme for climate-resilient adaptation measures along Indian coasts will be launched.

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