In an interaction with the media after the Budget presentation, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said all the targets set by the government were achievable, the RBI would be a regulator for housing finance companies, and it was time to switch to electric vehicles. Edited excerpts:
On the message from the Budget
This Budget has been made with a 10-year vision in mind, and also what is attainable as a target within five years. In a concise form, we say we aim for a $5-trillion economy, but that is only to indicate that in the next five years we will take steps to achieve that kind of vision. That is why the presentation format also was firstly on the 10-year vision, a 5-year target, and five-six areas on which we will focus, and schemes related to those — whether it is rural India, urban India, youth, women, ease of living, or India’s soft power. All the targets given in the Budget, be it disinvestment or tax revenues, are reasonable and achievable. We have not exaggerated any of the tasks we face.
There has been a lot of discussion on this in the past few months as non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) are a critical component of our financial system. Our announcements regarding NBFCs are a comprehensive, well thought-out approach to deal with the crisis. The Reserve Bank of India will be a regulator for NBFCs as well as housing finance companies. There is also a window being opened for NBFC financing, with a government backstop of 10 per cent.
Our start-ups have brought about a big social transformation. They have been given many tax incentives in this Budget. Hence, this is a step to further their ease of doing business.
On social sector
The budgetary outlays for the poor, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes have increased. We have provided enough funds for various rural and social sector-related schemes. There is no shortage. The big idea we have carried is, pool all the research, scholarship and fellowship money that have previously been spread across multiple ministries, so that there is one agency which takes care of that.
On excise duty increase for petrol/diesel
The global situation being what it is, India’s public funding situation being what it is, there is always an effort to provide that money without hurting the individual taxpayer. But let’s also be clear that petrol and diesel are not under GST. We want to make sure that we don’t expand individual income tax so much, but where there is public transport coming in, and with biofuel coming in, this is an issue we wanted to address.
On electric vehicles
For our environment commitment, we have to gradually move out of fossil fuels and move towards renewable energy. So we have to give substantial incentives for renewable energy, particularly when it comes to mobility. We wanted to make sure that if we have made a commitment for improving the air pollution condition, we have to support EVs.
We have set a realistic goal for disinvestment, which is Rs 1.05 trillion. It is necessary to push through reforms as we don’t want the economy to stagnate. Yet, if there are 2-3 agencies holding over and above 51 per cent, it should be opened up. The government still retains ownership as you are also giving opportunity to small retail purchasers of stock.