Over the last fortnight or so, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has gone off the public grid as it were. While she has—as insiders reveal—diligently gone about her task of putting together her first Union budget, she has at the same time kept a low public profile. This is only natural as the finance minister can hardly afford any distraction; not only is the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) short on preparation time, given that the new government took charge merely four weeks ago, it is also facing some economic headwinds that require urgent palliatives—which in turn has stoked major expectations from this year’s budget. Separately, there is a buzz in the corridors of South Block that the Union budget’s co-author, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is also keeping busy seeking inputs, both formally and informally, on the budget from economists.

While we will have to await the presentation of the Union budget on 5 July for the specifics, some broad trends, gleaned from the recent submissions by the PM at various forum, are apparent.

First, this year’s budget will in all likelihood echo the target of a $5 trillion economy by 2022; something that was formally articulated in President Ram Nath Kovind’s speech to both Houses of Parliament on 20 June. Later, replying to the debate on the President’s address in the Rajya Sabha, Modi reiterated the government’s resolve to make India a member of the prestigious “$5 trillion club". While it will be silly to believe that this can be achieved in the next nine months, the resolve and the blueprint for medium term action are likely to find mention in the budget.

Second, a key to achieving the above is to address the perceptible slowdown in growth. The obvious options are revving it up either through consumption—read enhanced government spending—or stoking a revival in the investment cycle. The former is very unlikely as the space for fiscal manoeuvre is extremely limited for the FM. Also, it is obvious that the economic growth so far has been operating on a single engine, with growth driven largely by consumption; and this is reaching its limits—implying that the lack of investment demand in the economy can no longer be ignored.

Given that the roll-out of the goods and services tax (GST) has limited the traditional scope of the Union budget by keeping bulk of the indirect levies out of it, efforts to revive investment are likely to be achieved through the tweaks in direct taxes. And in this, the likely focus will be further improvements in the ecosystem and tax incentives to promote entrepreneurship; the NDA’s philosophy on job creation emphasizes self-employment. In an interview to Mint during the election campaign, Amit Shah, Bharatiya Janata Party president and the home minister in the new cabinet, had said as much: “It is my firm belief that the jobs challenge faced by India can only be resolved through what PM Modi keeps saying: self-employment." Clearly, to achieve this, an enabling environment, particularly with respect of ease of doing business, is a prerequisite.

Third, the optics of the budget will reflect the political messaging that won over the poor as a constituency and facilitated the landslide win for the BJP-led coalition in the 17th general election. It is now well established that the provision of toilets, cooking gas, electricity and houses was a major source of electoral outreach for the BJP. Even after conclusion of the general election, the PM has continued to emphasize the need to eliminate (not reduce) poverty to ensure a basic minimum living standard to the entire populace and thereby provide the launchpad for the next phase of growth.

It is clear then that the stage is set for the presentation of the Union budget. The first hints will be forthcoming in the Economic Survey or the economic report card of the country to be presented a day earlier to Parliament. Till then, we will have to be content with what an insider in government said cryptically: “Wait and see what we plan for next week."

Anil Padmanabhan is managing editor of Mint and writes every week on the intersection of politics and economics.

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