The interim budget in an election year is always a tightrope walk for the incumbent government. I must, therefore, commend finance minister Piyush Goyal for maintaining a good balance in the budget.

The minister spoke quite eloquently, although I did miss the usual sher-o-shayari that have now become part of almost all the budget presentations.

It is heartening to see that the budget focused on rationalization of government schemes by better targeting delivery.

The budget has two clear target segments—the agriculture sector and a portion of the middle class.

The direct benefit scheme for farmers will bring some relief to the agriculture sector by putting an estimated 75,000 crore in the hands of the farmers, which, in turn, will boost consumption and help the rural economy.

However, there is an urgent need to address the underlying health of the farm sector. As agricultural incomes have been buffeted, first by drought and then, ironically, by surpluses, there is a need to look for long-term solutions for the sector by devising a mechanism to fill the demand-supply gap and improve productivity by making technology available to the farmers, like it has been done in some of the states.

That will bring in long-term prosperity for the farmers as short-term doles cannot be sustained over a long time.

The other major highlight of the budget is the long overdue monthly pension scheme for the unorganized sector. While this is a welcome step, we need to look for a holistic social benefit and medicare scheme for every citizen of the country and not just one particular section.

The tax proposals for the middle class will directly benefit three crore people. It will place more money, about 18,500 crore, in the hands of the middle class and thereby boost consumption.

While this is a welcome step, I would expect the government to come up with more structural steps to create jobs and generate employment so as to bring more people into the income group, while we take short-term measures to fill the income gaps. Measures to boost both public and private capital expenditure will play an important role in this regard.

The finance minister presented the 10 most important dimensions for Vision 2030. The framework is highly laudable and it will be critical to have proper strategizing, the right kind of investments, and time-bound execution for these to succeed.

I am glad that even in an election year, the government has set a road map for the incoming government to carry on. Just two of the schemes announced today, the direct benefit scheme for farmers and the tax exemptions for the middle class, would put extra money to the tune of 93,000 crore in the hands of the beneficiaries.

Alongside the expenditures, it will also be pertinent to balance the budget by ensuring execution of all the revenue levers, such as tax compliance and disinvestment, to ensure that fiscal deficit remains within the stated target.

While our projected gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 7.5% in 2019 is the healthiest on a relative basis, we will have to look at a double-digit GDP growth year-on-year if we aspire to reach the levels of developed economies like the US and China in the coming years.

I feel this is a budget to keep the Indian economy on the growth path. However, given the huge potential of the world’s fastest growing major economy, we now need to realize our capabilities and shift gears to accelerate the pace of our growth in the years to come.

Pawan Munjal is chairman, Hero MotoCorp. The views expressed here are his own.

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