New Delhi (India), February 12: As India heads into national elections in 2024, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented an upbeat interim budget focusing on sustained inclusive growth. Clear strategies were outlined across sectors like healthcare, agriculture, infrastructure and e-commerce that buoyed market sentiments while putting people first.
Healthcare: More Holistic Vision, But Milestones Ahead
The budget aims to unify maternal and child health schemes under an overarching umbrella. As Dr. Sujit Chatterjee, CEO of Dr. L H Hiranandani Hospital explains, “The comprehensiveness of combining vaccinations, nutrition and healthcare access across phases from pregnancy to adolescence is judicious.”
However, the real test lies in translating policy to tangible outcomes. Despite previous well-intentioned programs, rural healthcare gaps have persisted. Chatterjee believes laser-sharp focus on addressing on-ground needs is crucial for success this time. Effective coordination between central, state and local authorities along with infrastructure upgrades at all levels can help optimize last-mile delivery and make a genuine difference in saving mothers’ and children’s lives.
Agriculture: Boosting Dairy Holds Immense Potential
India’s massive dairy industry that supports millions of farmers has been a key focus. As Aman Jain, co-founder of Doodhvale notes, even small improvements in cattle productivity through scientific rearing can significantly raise farmer incomes, given India’s position as the world’s top milk producer.
The budget links disease control, infrastructure upgrading and processing capabilities to cut wastage and expand exports. However, Jain cautions that bridging last-mile gaps will be the real test. Past programs like Rashtriya Gokul Mission struggled to maximize outcomes. Working closely with state cooperatives, private players and breeders to understand ground-level needs will be crucial for success this time.
Infrastructure: Banking on Growth, With Caution
Increased infrastructure spending is prudent for growth according to Ravi Singhal, CEO of GCL Broking. With the fiscal deficit target below 4%, banks like Bank of Baroda are well positioned to benefit. The prospects for engineering giant L&T also look upbeat. However, Singhal advises maintaining a vigilant mechanism to ensure vulnerable sections are not deprived of affordable food.
E-Commerce: Supporting Inclusive Digital Growth
With GDP expected at a healthy 6-6.5% in FY24, the budget boosts support for e-commerce and startups to drive digital growth. Schemes like revamped credit guarantees for MSMEs are welcome. However, as Sahil Arya, Co-Founder and Director Fat Tiger highlights, slippages in public distribution systems can indirectly impact broader demand. Although higher incomes can drive food affordability, existing welfare schemes providing rations to over 80 crore Indians have been extended for one year presuming no further expansion in coverage. The government must maintain mechanisms to ensure nutrition access for the poorest.
Overall, the interim budget ticks many boxes, guided by the vision of stability, sustainability andinclusive growth. Increased spending on roads, railways, 5G and agriculture drives hopes of an economic rebound. While optimism runs high, experts caution that diligent monitoring and timely course-correction will be vital in translating policies to on-ground change. With national polls ahead, delivering on promises will be imperative.
Healthcare programs need urgent progress on closing rural gaps. Boosting dairy productivity requires cohesive action on-ground. Banking and infrastructure appear set for growth, but ensuring food security for the vulnerable remains a priority. And while digital advances are welcome, their benefits must not exclude sections that lack access.
In summary, the budget sets the stage for people-centric, equitable growth across several core sectors. But realizing goals needs sustained focus on balanced, empathetic execution. If the government earnestly follows through, India could well fulfill economic aspirations in a more holistic manner during its Amrit Kaal journey towards 100 years of independence.
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