The Union Budget for 2013-14 aims at 'higher growth leading to inclusive and sustainable development.'
With this objective, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has sought to increase allocation to key areas and provide incentives for investments and savings while containing the fiscal deficit to 4.8 percent of GDP.
Presenting the Union Budget in Parliament today, Chidambaram expressed the hope that the India would achieve high economic growth despite slowdown in the global economic growth.
The Minister said that his government has been able to contain the fiscal deficit at 5.2% in 2012-13 by following the path of fiscal consolidation. But the current account deficit (CAD) is a greater worry, the Minister added. He, therefore, proposes to encourage foreign investment that is consistent with India's economic objectives.
Chidambaram said that the other areas of concern addressed by his Government are inflation and government expenditure.
"Our efforts in the past few months have brought down headline WPI inflation to about 7.0 percent and core inflation to about 4.2 percent. It is food inflation that is worrying, and we shall take all possible steps to augment the supply side to meet the growing demand for food items," he said.
The Minister further said that he had no choice but to rationalize government expenditure in view of huge fiscal deficit in 2012-13.
"We also took some policy decisions that had been deferred for too long, corrected some prices, and undertook a review of certain tax policies," he added.
Chidambaram made promises to the women, the youth and the poor - the three faces that represent the majority of the people of India.
Stating that the government pledges to do everything possible to empower the women and to keep them safe and secure, he said that a number of initiatives were underway and many more would be taken by the Government as well as non-government organizations.
He announced the setting up of a fund - Nirbhaya Fund - with the Government contributing Rs. 1000 crore.
The Minister also announced a Rs. 1,000 crore scheme for training youth to boost their employability and productivity. The National Skill Development Corporation will be asked to set the curriculum and standards for training different skills. Trained youth who pass a test at the end of training will get a monetary reward of Rs.10000 on an average. This initiative is likely to motivate 10 lakh youth.
For the benefit of the poor, Chidambaram assured that Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) schemes will be rolled out throughout the country during the term of the UPA Government.
"We are redoubling out efforts to ensure that the digitized beneficiary lists are available; that a bank account is opened for each beneficiary; and that the bank account is seeded with Aadhaar in due course," he said.
Meanwhile, the allocation for Rural Development Ministry has been raised by 46 percent to Rs 80,194 crore in 2013-14.
Pradham Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY)-II has been carved out to benefit States that have substantially fulfilled the objectives of PMGSY. This will benefit states such as Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab and Rajasthan.
Ministry of Agriculture gets a rise of 22 per cent over the revised estimates (RE) for 2012-13, at Rs 27,049 crore. Rs 500 crore is being allocated to start a programme on crop diversification. It will encourage farmers in the original green revolution states to choose alternative crops.
A pilot programme on Nutri-Farms will be started for introducing new crop varieties that are rich in micro-nutrients, such as iron-rich bajra. A sum of up to Rs 200 crore is to be provided to start the pilots.
The budget seeks to support Farmer Producer Organizations (FPO), including Farmer Producer Companies (FPC), which have emerged as aggregators of farm produce and link farmers directly to markets.
The target of agricultural credit for 2012-13 (Rs. 5,75,000 crore) is likely to be exceeded, and a target of Rs 7,00,000 crore farm credit has been fixed for the next year.
The interest subvention scheme for short-term crop loans is proposed to be continued for loans by public sector banks, RRBs and Cooperative banks, and expanded to private scheduled commercial banks. Under the scheme, a farmer who repays the loan on time is able to get credit at 4 cent per year.
Rs.307 crore have been provided for setting up of the National Livestock Mission. This will attract investment and enhance livestock productivity. A sub-mission of this Mission seeks to increase the availability of feed and fodder.
Expressing the hope that the National Food Security Bill will be passed by Parliament as early as possible, Chidambaram has set apart Rs. 10,000 crore towards the incremental cost that is likely under the Act. (ANI)