Rajesh Sharma: Paucity of time did not affect FM’s bold steps

Though there were some tall expectations from the government, big revolutionary decisions were not expected from the FM in his maiden budget given his constraints, mainly paucity of time, condition of national and world economy, and the pressure of fiscal deficit. This was reflected in his budget speech. The intensions are visible, and we should give him more time before these intentions are transformed into budgetary provisions.

The infrastructure sector was expected to remain a focus in this budget, as expected, because the government believes that if economy has to grow, infrastructure must be developed first. Therefore, the budget talks of putting roads, ports, power and agri infrastructure on the growth trajectory. Budgetary allocation of Rs 37,850 crs to NHAI for development of national and state highways is a big step. NHAI has now almost become defunct, and this fresh blood will rejuvenate the apex roads authority. It is declared that in this fiscal itself NHAI will construct 8,000 km of national roads.

The power sector also got attention with a budgetary allocation of Rs 500 crore for developing Altra Super Technology in thermal as well as solar power plants. This step will encourage largescale cost effective power generation in future. But lot of remains to be done to the power sector, including revitalising the health of SEB companies.

The agriculture infrastructure fund of Rs 100 crore that has been provided for the first time is intended to give a much needed boost to agriculture infrastructure which will ultimately achieve the economics of storing and transportation of agro products.

Other announcements which are a step forward to mitigate hassles of infrastructure sector are the Infrastructure Investment Trust to be set up to securitise infra projects and a 10-year tax holiday for the power sector. Banks will be allowed to raise long term funds to finance infra projects without or with minimum regulatory restrictions.

All these announcements are intended to bolster the infrastructure growth which is a key for GDP growth. What remains to be seen is how quickly and efficiently these measures are executed. To sum up, it can be said that the budget provides enough will for infrastructure development. The answer is in execution and governance.

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