India's Interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal showered tax sops for the middle class and announced an annual income support of Rs 6,000 for small farmers as he presented a please-all Budget on Friday.
Terming the interim budget as progressive and positive, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant on Friday said the government's "pathbreaking" budget has provided a narrative of India's continued development growth.
Kant underlined that the interim budget presented by Finance Minister Piyush Goyal in the Lok Sabha, has provided relief to the middle-class people, the farming community and the unorganised sectors, which will be beneficial for everyone in the long-run.
"The budget is for the middle class and farming community. This is also India's budget. The unorganised sectors have been covered and middle-class has got relief from taxation. The biggest structural reform is that we moved away from farm loan waivers and gave direct benefit transfers (DBT) to the farmers," Kant told ANI.
Lauding the steps taken by the central government to give relief to the farmers, the NITI Aayog CEO stressed that a reduction by 5 per cent of interest rates will benefit the agricultural community in the long-term.
"Giving relief to the middle class and pension schemes for unorganised sectors is a revolutionary step. The income of the farmers will be doubled not only in the agricultural sector; but also in dairy and fisheries sectors respectively," Kant added.
He said that the state governments should now take initiatives to provide the necessary relief to farmers, as the Centre has done a lot of work over the same.
Kant did not express concerns about the fiscal deficit pegged at 3.4 per cent for FY 2019-20, arguing that the money is being in the social and infrastructure sectors.
"In this budget, the social sector has been earmarked for Rs 20,000 crore. If we want to achieve a growth rate of 9-10 per cent, we need to improve the learning outcomes in the health and education sectors and the government has focussed on it," he said.
Kant further said that path-breaking interim budget would have long term benefits for the masses.
Echoing similar sentiments, vice-chairman of the NITI Aayog Rajiv Kumar said that the central government has not done any vote-bank politics while presenting the Budget, saying that it is a measured Budget.
"The steps taken by the government are progressive because the economic cycle needed impetus, which will boost consumption and increase the disposable income of the people. Relief has been given to middle class in the form of tax rebate. In real estate, those builders who were affected during demonetisation and GST, steps have been
taken to help them. Other than this, there is no need to give tax to those whose property is lying vacant for two years," Kumar told ANI.
Taking a swipe at the Congress for dubbing the Budget as "copied", he said, "The Prime Minister has shown to the Congress while undertaking development works.
They (Congress) used to do 'jumlebaazi' and never implemented certain schemes. For example, Ujjwala Yojana, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao, our Prime Minister has done this and has silenced everyone.
Criticising the Congress for calling the Budget a mere election speech, Kumar further said that while Goyal presented the Budget, he gave a 10-year vision of India's economy and highlighted the achievements done in the last four to five years, arguing that there was nothing wrong in it.
The presentation of the budget is the last financial exercise of the Narendra Modi government before the general elections, scheduled for April-May this year.
"The biggest stops that we have seen are the giveaways for farmers especially," said Garima Kapoor, economist and vice-president, Elara Capital, Mumbai "The budget is clearly farm-focused, with elections on the mind. Farmers, age-old, unorganised sector, MSME and middle class - they're all finding favour, with the agricultural sector getting the biggest support."
"The equity markets will be happy because of the consumption boost."
"If the government has provided enough consumption boost, then RBI would want to take a cautious stance and would not undertake a rate cut."