There were five specific priorities that I was looking for to be addressed by the new government. These were around the use of technology for inclusive growth, enhancing the education ecosystem, promoting a tax regime that is stable and growth oriented, focus on the startup eco-system and greater impetus to the manufacturing sector. It is heartening to note that the budget has taken the right route on these issues.
On taxes, even without being specific, the finance minister’s comments around simplification of tax are in the right direction.
India’s transformation has to be powered by technology — this is well recognised by the government and has been articulated in various initiatives in the budget. The government’s focus on digital connectivity, as highlighted in initiatives such as the national rural internet and technology mission, and e-connecting of all government departments, is evident.
The allocation of Rs 7,060 crore for the development of 100 modern cities is an excellent opportunity for us to build cities of the future that have the best of physical and digital infrastructure. The world over, new cities are using technology to deliver exemplary citizen services, especially in the areas of security, healthcare, comprehensive and seamless city management. In addition to the new cities, modernising existing city administration with greater use of technology is also important.
The vibrancy of the startup ecosystem is usually a sure indicator of a growing economy. In fact, I believe the energy in the startup ecosystem can make growth a reality in our country. The startup fund of Rs 10,000 crore for new businesses — especially in the software product startups, that have been allocated Rs 500 crore — is a good step.
The focus on micro small and medium enterprises (MSME) segment and technology use in small and medium businesses (SMB) is a welcome move as well. Earlier this week, NASSCOM released a report that clearly showed the correlation between technology usage and revenue growth in SMBs.
We are at the crossroads of tremendous opportunity and it is important to channelise the energy of the youth through skill-based employment. Programmes including skill India, digital learning and virtual classrooms are all critical for building the skill base of young Indians in traditional professions like carpentry and plumbing as well as in helping them be more successful in the new startup environment.
The government has focused on inclusive growth, which is good. The provision of Rs 200 crore for textile mega clusters and promotion of traditional arts and professions will generate skills and employability. Also, the focus on women’s welfare through various initiatives such as crisis management centre for women, allocation of Rs 100 crore for beti bachao, beti padha yojana and improving school curricula to aid gender mainstreaming is commendable.
Overall, I think it is a good start. The government has clearly followed what they had promised in their election manifesto. I see this budget setting the stage for higher GDP growth on the fundamentals of recovery in manufacturing and infrastructure sectors, built on the backbone of future-ready technology.