Citizens praise budget, but question efficacy on ground

Last Updated: Thu, Feb 28, 2013 14:56 hrs

New Delhi: The public's reaction to the 2013-14 budget is positive, though a section of the "aam admi" feels that it will take a fair amount of sweat for the government to meet the target of containing the fiscal deficit at 4.8 percent of the gross domestic product in the new fiscal.

However, entrepreneurs and the tech-fraternity are happy with the incentives offered by the government to create a vibrant "start-up technology eco-system and drive innovations with more support to technology incubators".

"In the the last five years, I think this is the best budget for the start-up eco-system. The government has sent a subtle message that it wants the small and medium companies to grow big and it has offered several sops to compete at the national level," Sanjay Vijayakumar, CEO of Kochi-based MobME Wireless told IANS on telephone.

The government has allowed small and medium industries, run by "informed investors", to list on the stock exchange without making an initial public offer (IPO) to raise capital and has provided Rs.1,000 crore to train 10 lakh youth in skill development, he said.

"Such schemes will benefit the youth and the students," the entrepreneur said.

There is good news for agriculture and watershed development with increased allocation, but "we need effective implementation," says Sunita Narain, director general of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

Pointing to the workable components and targets which did not seem feasible, Narain said "the recognition that small and marginal farmers need investment in improved land productivity is a critical component of the budget".

Narain said the finance minister's decision to "evolve a scheme to encourage cities to take up waste-to-energy propjects in public-private partnership mode shows his complete lack of understanding of garbage".

"What is needed is to incentivize municipalities that can segregate, recycle and reuse waste, not build white-elephant waste plants. But clearly, that does not suit the technology-fixated mindset. Now these funds will push another round of bad projects, which will create more problems than solve existing ones," Narain said in a statement.

Schemes like the allocation of Rs.1,000 crore for women's safety and empowerment are just an appendix, said Crystal David John, head of the economics department at the Stella Maris College in Chennai. "What is needed for women's empowerment is an all-round gender sensitivity which should percolate down to the ground level and create an environment for justice," John told IANS from Chennai.

John was echoed by Radhika Chakavarty, a 19-year-old student of St. Stephen's College in the capital. "Schemes like these are not enough. The focus should be on better laws and implementation of policies," she addded.

Rameez, a 21-year-old student in the capital said "the special bank for women is justified because women have poor access to credit in rural areas".

There has been a 8.7 per cent increase in child welfare schemes from last year, but there has been no focus on the Integrated Child Protection Scheme, which was promised, Bharti Ali, director of the HAQ Centre for Child Rights said.

"Though greater attention to schemes is important, how the increased budget is spread across the heads is crucial to the success of the schemes," she explained.

Pankaj Sinha, a 23-year-old executive at Pininfarina, observed that the "introduction of service taxes was earlier confined to only the restaurants that served the liquor and the 18 per cent hike on cigarettes and cigarillos might either reduce consumption or become a major cause for outrage".

Describing the budget allocation as "real short" for the health sector, Bejon Misra, founder trustee of the Consumer Online Forum, said "he was disappointed with very little focus on social security issues like pension, healthcare to all, employment and debt servicing in the manner as was expected". It was more of a balancing act, he added.

"I must tell you that 10 percent Indians are holding 50 percent of India's total income. They are the super-rich of India. Why should the finance minister be reluctant to tax the super rich (10 per cent surcharge has been levied on those who earn more than Rs 1 crore)? The thing that is lacking in this budget is triggers what actually happens on the ground," V. Mukund Das, director of the Chandragupt Institute of Management in Patna, told IANS over telephone.

The implementation of the schemes have to be efficient and the approach to fiscal welfare "pro-poor", Das said.

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