1. Has Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman steered the economy out of the woods?
Frankly, the Budget does not provide enough stimulus to generate demand and unleash the animal spirits in the economy.
2. Is this a populist, please-all Budget?
Well, the government has been promising to reduce its footfall in areas in which it does not have much expertise, but unfortunately we didn’t see that happening. Particularly in the area of culture which has an important impact on tourism, the government should have allowed experts to guide the development of sites and museums.
3. Will it help the economy, create jobs, restart stalled projects?
I think the finance minister has said a lot on skilling in technology but those areas require a basic level of education, so developing such skill sets will take time. Conversely, there was no mention of the very important small artisan who is a farmer and craftsman at the same time. During fallow seasons many of our agricultural workers are carpenters or potters or painters etc. Our craft sector provides employment to large sections of the poor and much needs to be done to help them reach out to the market.
4. What was the best thing about the Budget? And the worst?
Museums across the country are languishing and many of our extraordinary collections are being damaged irreparably. It is very good that government is considering setting up a conservation training institute but we should have at least four such institutes for different parts of the country. I am happy to see the emphasis on girl child education, menstrual health, and review of marriage age. There should be more done to sensitise police and lower level government officials towards women’s problems. Further, we keep talking about smart cities but people need human level interactions and the government needs to facilitate this by investing in public spaces in cities.