Budget fails to factor in the challenges to revive rural economy
No increase in overall spending on agriculture despite the acknowledgment that farmers’ incomes are under stress
New Delhi: One of the best things about budget 2015 was the honest assessment by finance minister Arun Jaitley of the challenges facing the economy. Jaitley started his speech by mentioning five challenges, all of which urgently merit the government’s attention and also have a bearing on the medium- to long-term programme of economic revival. The five challenges he mentioned were stress in agricultural incomes; investment in infrastructure; decline in manufacturing; a squeeze in central expenditure because of devolution of additional funds to the states recommended by the finance commission; and the need to maintain fiscal discipline. Of course, the first two also imply that the rosy picture of economic revival suggested by the economic survey or the Central Statistical Office is not fully shared by the finance minister. A natural corollary of this would have been for Jaitley to take concrete steps to boost agriculture, manufacturing and investment in his budget proposals.