1) Has Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman steered the economy out of the woods?
It is too early to be sure of this since measures such as tax cuts will take some time to yield results. The fiscal math looks tight given the lack of tax buoyancy and the government’s poor record with disinvestment targets in the past.
2. Is this a populist, please-all Budget?
Not really. The finance minister has been lucky that she is not presenting the Budget in the midst of the election season, this is a balanced Budget nevertheless.
3. Will it help the economy, create jobs, restart stalled projects?
While there is very little near-term stimulus in the Budget for job creation, the cut in personal income tax, though expected, is a welcome and long overdue measure. This cut is likely to boost consumption and demand in the medium term.
The steps to do away with dividend distribution tax is likely to boost investor sentiment. There could have been greater impetus had the long-term capital gains been revised, and that’s why I would put this down as a missed opportunity. But incentives for the housing sector, though meagre, are likely to help in the creation of jobs.
4. What was the best thing about the Budget? And the worst?
The expected cut in personal tax rates and dividend distribution tax was a highlight coming as it did on the back of corporate tax cuts.
I think the worst part of this Budget is that the government’s spending on education and infrastructure remains constrained by its lack of tax buoyancy. Likewise, the lack of any concrete measures to attract foreign direct investment reads as another missed opportunity.