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India budget to boost investment

INDIAN Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has promised increased growth and social security spending in its first full budget.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said India “is about to take off” and it was time for a “quantum leap” on reforms.

He also announced the setting up of a “universal social security system” for all Indians.

India will grow at a rate of more than 8% during 2015-16, a key economic report said ahead of the budget.

The growth forecast follows the country’s new way of calculating GDP which has caused some confusion.

Presenting the budget in parliament Mr Jaitley said the country was growing at a strong rate, inflation was down and foreign exchange reserves were high, all “good signs of an economy that’s restored its credibility”.

Among the major announcements made by Mr Jaitley are:

Five “ultra mega” power projects of 4,000 megawatts (MW) will be built to ease the energy crisis

Spending on infrastructure will be raised by $11.3bn (£7.32bn) to boost growth

Creating an “universal social security” for all Indians

Implementation of a uniform countrywide goods and services tax (GST) by April 2016

Mr Modi’s government produced an interim budget shortly after coming to power last year that was largely seen as a continuation of policies designed by the outgoing Congress party government.

Optimism has grown under Mr Modi, but the country is yet to see any of the “big bang” reforms he promised to revive the economy.

“This budget needs to leave a mark, just as the 1991 budget did when the economy was going through a major crisis,” DK Joshi, chief economist at local ratings agency Crisil, told the AFP news agency.

“There is a huge amount of expectation. And this is the critical time to deliver.”

India’s Economic Survey, which is said to be the basis of the annual budget, has indicated that India can increase public investments to drive growth without borrowing more.

“India has reached a sweet spot and… there is a scope for Big Bang reforms now,” the report said.

The government would not overshoot its deficit target of 4.1% of gross domestic product (GDP) in the current fiscal year just ending, the report said.



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