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Union FInance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman (ANI)
Union FInance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman (ANI)

FM Sitharaman's post- Budget 2021 remarks: 'We've spent, spent and spent'

  • Planning for health infrastructure spend has gone down to the block level, Sitharaman
  • She also clarified that in no categories will the consumer pay more with respect to agriculture infra cess

Post presenting the Budget for the fiscal year 2021-2022 earlier in the day, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday said, "We have not lost the opportunity to clean up government’s accounts further."

Speaking at the Finance Ministry press briefing later in the day, Sitharaman said the government has attended to the need of the health sector and a major boost has been provided healthcare, infrastructure.

Planning for health infrastructure spend has gone down to the block level, Sitharaman.

"This Budget comes at a time when all of us decided to give impetus to the economy and that impetus, we thought, would be qualitatively spent and give necessary demand push if we choose to spend big on infrastructure," said Sitharaman said post her Budget speech, which has been dubbed as one of the most crucial budgets tabled in the Parliament in recent years as it comes in the wake of novel coronavirus crisis, whose spread has left national economies and businesses counting the costs.

"As a second feature, I tend to the need of the healthcare sector and even there, capacities for better health management had to be brought in in light of what we had gone through last year," she added.

"If there are two important features of this Budget, it is that we chose to spend big on infrastructure which spans across roads, power generation, bridges, ports and so on," the finance minister added.

"Our fiscal deficit which started at 3.5% during Feb 2020 has increased to 9.5% of GDP, so we have spent, we have spent and we have spent. At the same time, we have given a clear glide path for deficit management," said Sitharaman.

Accounting of government expenditure and revenue statements are now a lot more transparent and open, said finance minister.

"We have taken steps for employment creation, infrastructure development, which will again generate employment, change definition of MSME. All these measures will help middle-class people, small traders," said Finance Minister.

On farm laws, Sitharaman said the government is and has always been open to dialogue with farmers. "The agriculture minister has been ready to have a clause-by-clause discussion with farmers on the farm laws. Hence we believe that dialogue is the way forward."

"Defence Budget consists of three component - revenue, pension & capital component. The Budget allocation (for the capital component) in 2020-21 was 1,13,734 crores. It has gone to 1,35,060 crores which is an increase of 20%." said TV Somanathan, Secretary, Expenditure.

Elaborating on her Budget speech, Sitharaman pointed out that government has increased allocation for National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development to ensure more credit to farmers.

She also clarified that in no categories will the consumer pay more with respect to agriculture infra cess. The comment comes after Finance Ministry announced a cess on certain items, including petrol, diesel, gold and some imported agricultural products.

While proposing the Agriculture Infrastructure and Development Cess (AIDC), Sitharaman had also said that care has been taken not to put additional burden on consumers on most items.

Moreover, Sitharaman added, “After some haircut, banks will get some of the money back on NPAs."

"All lessons learnt from IDBI taken into consideration for Development Finance Institution," she further said.

"Private sector participation will be there where they can set up their own DFIs," she said.

Accounting of govt expenditure, revenues far more transparent. We ensured spending won’t get delayed. Have increased spending in coming year due to which deficit has increased.

“We have spent, we have spent, we have spent," Sitharaman said in her concluding comments.

Sitharaman on Monday began her Budget 2021 speech by saying that the coronavirus pandemic "is the dawn of a new era, one in which India is poised to be a land of new hope".

Sitharaman, India's first full-time woman Finance Minister, had in July 2019 ditched the colonial legacy of a Budget Briefcase for the traditional Bahi-Khata to carry Union Budget Papers. She used the same last year and again on Monday.

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