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May 25, 2018
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 Union Budget 2018 live Jan dhan accounts to get benefits of micro insurance and pensionWill the income tax slabs be revised? Will the fuel prices see a hike? What about new trains? Any sops for industries bearing the brunt of GST? Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is expected to answer every question in a few hours  from now when he will present the Union Budget for 2018-19 in Lok Sabha on Thursday.

While there are unlikely to be any major changes in indirect tax as most of them are now under the purview of the Goods and Services Tax Council, Budget 2018could have several positive changes on the direct tax side, according to analysts.

Here are the live updates:


Infrastructure

₹50 lakh crore is needed to create world class infrastructure in the country. 99 cities have been selected with outlay of ₹2.09 lakh crore under Smart City programme. 10 prominent tourist sites will be developed into iconic ones to boost tourism.

11.35 A.M.

Health, education and social welfare

Our government is implementing a comprehensive social security scheme. We have managed to get children to school but quality of education is still a cause for concern. We now propose to treat education holistically without segmentation from pre-nursery to Class 12. We will initiate an integrated B-Ed programme for teachers. We propose to move gradually from blackboard to digital board.

He proposes to launch the Revitalising of Infrastructure and Systems of Education (RISE) by next year. We propose to set up two new full-fledged schools of planning and architecture. 18 new schools of planning and architecture will be set up in the IITs and NITs. He also announces the Prime Minister’s fellowship programme to subsidise research.

The National health Policy 2017 has envisioned health and wellness centres as the foundation of India’s healthcare system. He commits ₹1,200 crore for this flagship programme and invites contributions from the private sector.

We are launching a flagship National Health Protection Scheme to cover 10 crore poor and vulnerable families. We will provide them with upto ₹5 lakh per family per year in secondary and tertiary care institutions. He says this scheme will have 50 crore beneficiaries.

These schemes will generate lakhs of jobs, aprticularly for women, The government is progressing towards universal health coverage.

Tuberculosis claims more lives every year than any other disease. The government will provide ₹600 crore for nutrititonal support to all TB patients.

24 new government medical colleges will be set up by upgrading existing district hospitals in the country. At least one medical college for three parliamentary constituencies.

The Jivan Bima Yojana has benefited 5.22 crore families. 187 projects have been sanctioned under Namami Gange. All 4,465 Ganga gram villages have been declared open-defecation free. The government has identified 115 aspirational districts and will invest in social services.

Mass formalisation of MSMEs is taking place following demonetisation and GST. It has created a big database. Online loan sanctioning facility will be revamped to speed up loan giving by banks.

₹3 lakh crore is set as target for the Mudra Yojana in FY19. Additonal measures will be taken to boost the growth of venture capital funds and angel investors.

The government will contribute 12 per cent of wages of new employees for all sectors.

Women’s contribution to PF will be reduced to 8 per cent for the first three years of their employment with no reduction in employer’s contribution. The government allocates ₹7,148 crore for the textile sector.

11.15 A.M.

Agriculture and rural economy

Our emphasis is on generating higher income for farmers, and generating productive and gainful employment on farms, and non-farm workers. We want to help the farmers produce more from the same land, at a lesser cost, and get a better price.

He says that this year’s Budget will focus on strengthening agriculture and the rural economy.

For better price realisation, farmers need to make decisions based on prices likely to be available in the market.

The Finance Minister says that APMCs will be linked with ENAM. The government will develop 22,000 Gramin agricultural markets. The cluster-model approach will be adopted for agricultural production. Organic farming with farmer-producer organisations, rural-producer organisation and women self-help groups will be encouraged.

Minimum Support Price shall be increased by 1.5 times. Operation Green will be launched for agriculture and the Minister allocates ₹500 crore for this.

The Minister proposes to liberalise export of agricultural products. He says agricultural exports have a potential of $100 billion as against reality of $30 billion. He also allocates ₹1,290 crore for development of the bamboo production sector.

Ujjwala Yojana, the free LPG connection scheme has been expanded to eight crore households.

The Saubhagya Yojana will be another focus for the government. Six crore toilets have been built already, and in the next year, two crore additional toilets will be constructed.

He says the government will establish a dedicated affordable housing fund.

Loans to self-help groups will increase to ₹75,000 crore. He allocates ₹5,750 crore to National Livelihood Mission and ₹2,600 crore to the groundwater irrigation scheme.

Markets react

Agriculture stocks gained ground with Bayer Corpscience up by 0.67 per cent, BASF India by 3.12 per cent, Monsanto India up by 4.44 per cent, Rallis India by 2.04 per cent and Coromandel Agro Products by 4.88 per cent.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presents the Union Budget. When our government took over India was part of “fragile five,” we have successfully reverted it. We are now the fastest growing economy of the world, he says.

Demonetisation has reduced the quantum of cash currency and spurred digitisation of the economy, says Mr. Jaitley.

Indian economy is a $2.5 trillion economy. India is expected to become the fifth largest economy very soon. Indian society, polity and economy have shown remarkable resilience in adjusting to structural reforms. We will grow 7.2-7.5% in the second half of this year. Manufacturing sector is back on the growth path. Exports are expected to grow 15% in 2018. We have taken up programmes to direct the benefits of structural reforms to the poor.

The Minister cites India’s improvement in the Ease of Doing Business ranking by 42 places. He mentions the government’s schemes for providing free LPG connections and electricity to underprivileged sections. He states that the government has eliminated middlement in the direct benefit transfer programme.

Lok Sabha proceedings begin. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan is in the Chair. She announces the demise of Lok Sabha member Chintaman Wanga. The House pays silent tribute to the departed MP.

Ms. Mahajan says the Budget will be presented today, despite the usual procedure of the House adjourning for the day to mourn the demise of a sitting member.

Job creation

The Union Budget 2018-19 comes at a time when slowing growth and subdued investment sentiment have emerged as major concerns for the economy. The slowdown in growth has had an impact on job creation as well.

In such a scenario, the macro backdrop of the Budget calls for stepping up public investment in specific infrastructure segments which would revive investment and create employment.

Farmers want a “water budget”

A special meeting of the representatives from various agriculturists’ associations have called upon  the Union and State Governments to introduce the practice of micro-level preparations of “water budget” and “crop budget” to make farming more viable.

A separate budget for agriculture has also been a long pending demand.

Though the country witnesses floods in various parts, the monsoon wasn’t abundant and agriculture is still rain-dependent here.

The Economic Survey 2018 pointed out that the mechanisation is picking up in farm sector. The Survey also suggested land holdings can be consolidated to reap the benefits of agricultural mechanisation. The Survey explained how more women are taking up cultivation now.

Renewables sector expecting package

Industry players in the renewable energy sector are of the view that there are a number of policy decisions related to import duties and domestic manufacturing, which, if taken, could further boost the sector.

The Centre had allocated ₹5,472.8 crore to MNRE in last year’s Budget and approved demand for grants for ₹10,814.5 crore. Both these figures are higher than during the tenure of this government as can be seen from the table.

At the same time, renewable energy generation had grown significantly over the years, touching 70,134.4 million units in the April-November 2017 period. In other words, in 2017-18, India generated 85.6% of the renewable energy it did in the full year 2016-17 with a third of the year still to go.

However, industry players said achieving the target of 175 GW of renewable energy capacity and generation by 2022 requires a lot more to be done than simply increasing Budgetary allocation.

The Finance Minister and his juniors have arrived at the Parliament. The Budget will be presented at 11 am in Lok Sabha and will be tabled in Rajya Sabha later in the day.

With Finance Minister Arun Jaitley getting ready to present the Budget on February 1, it’s also time for us to learn and ready ourselves for a long speech. And a part of this long speech involves terms that aren’t used in daily conversation. Here is a ready reckoner for some of these terms.

Railways wish list

Since last year, the Railway budget has become part of Union Budget. From punctuality to more trains, better amenities to safety on rails, commuters have a long wish list from Railways. Railways being the largest state-run employer, the question of possible privatisation in select sectors is also a question that continues to linger.

What’s in store for Air India

It is also expected that Mr. Jaitley will spell out the government’s plan to divest distress public carrier Air India. An inter-ministerial group earlier discussed a plan to hive-off Air India’s assets and a portion of its non-aircraft debt to a special purpose vehicle (SPV) as a first step toward clearing up its balance sheet.

Will tax payers get relief?

Ask any common person on what they expect from this budget, the answer would be a change in income tax slabs. While last year, the Union Government decreased the income tax rate to 5% for individuals earning between ₹2.5 lakh and ₹5 lakh a year, the income tax slabs have not been revised for many years.

An overhaul in direct taxes is a long overdue. A Direct Tax Code is yet to see its light. Trade bodies and economists have been batting for a  new personal income tax structure with exemption upto Rs. 3 lakh.

This will be Mr. Jaitley’s and Narendra Modi-led NDA government’s fourth budget, the penultimate one before the nations goes to polls in 2019. It may be noted that if the General Elections are announced earlier next year, the fifth budget will only have to be a Vote on Account.