Business Today

Courting the Rural Base

Bt's panel of experts examines arun jaitley's last big budget closely to decode what it means for the economy and the common man.

The focus of the last full Union Budget before the Narendra Modi led NDA government gets into poll mode before the 2019 elections has been on farmers and rural India. After all, the rural voter ensured that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) managed to just get past the majority mark in the recent elections in Gujarat, a state that the party has been ruling continuously since 1998. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley surprised all by unveiling a health insurance plan for 100 million poor families approximately 500 million people with a coverage of `5 lakh per family per year. The details are yet to percolate, but what is now being called Modicare could well be the biggest such plan ever in the world. However, Jaitley missed the fiscal deficit target. It's now 3.5 per cent against the targeted 3.2 per cent and in the next fiscal would be 3.3 per cent against the original 3 per cent.

Business Today discussed Jaitley's latest budget with a panel that included Shubashis Gangopadhyay, Research Director, India Development Foundation; Ashu Suyash, MD & CEO, CRISIL; Nimesh Shah, MD & CEO, ICICI Prudential AMC; Abhijit Sen, former member, Planning Commission and Ashwani Mahajan, National Co Convenor, Swadeshi Jagran Manch. Excerpts:

Q: What do you think of this budget?

The world economy is on an upswing and that should help the Indian economy too. However, to exploit this situation to our advantage, we need to improve capacity utilisation, increase investment and consumption spending. At the same time, we need to create new and productive jobs for our rising labour force. The budget clearly seems aware of this and has touched on almost all these issues. The biggest problem in India is, of course,

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