Government Budgets

Economy needs much more than what Budget 2021 offers

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MSP

Mains level : Paper 3- Budget 2021-22 and missed opportunities

The article highlights the areas of economy for which the allocation in the Budget has either been kept unchanged or reduced, signaling the missed opportunity to revive the economy.

Including the off-budget items

  • An important feature of the Budget is the transparency on including the off-budget items.
  • The step will result in cleaning up of the balance-sheet of the Food Corporation of India (FCI).
  • The FCI was saddled with a debt of Rs 3.75 lakh crore by the end of December 2020, a significant part of which is now paid by the government.
  • So is the case of the fertiliser subsidy for which the pending Rs 65,000 crore was cleared.

What was the increase in expenditure due to pandemic

  • The total expenditure of the government in 2020-21 hardly increased compared to the pre-pandemic budget estimates (BE).
  • The total increase in revised estimates (RE) for 2020-21 is only Rs 33,000 crore, around 1 per cent more than what was budgeted.
  • The government did raise the expenditure on food subsidy, direct benefit transfer to Jan Dhan accounts (Rs 33,000 crore) and the increase in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MGNREGA) (Rs 50,000 crore) and so on.
  • But it did so not by generating resources and expanding the fiscal deficit but by cutting down essential expenditure such as agriculture (Rs 18,000 crore), education (Rs 14,000 crore) and social welfare (Rs 14,000 crore).

No increase in health budget

  • The Budget announced increase in the health budget to Rs 2.23 lakh crore.
  • This number was achieved by adding one-time expenditures on the vaccine, Finance Commission grants and inclusion of expenditure on drinking water, sanitation and nutrition.
  • However, the budget of the health ministry for 2021-21 is lower at Rs 74,602 crore compared to the revised estimates of Rs 82,445 crore for the current year.

No increase in agriculture budget

  • Like in many other essential ministries, the agriculture ministry also witnessed a cut with estimates of 2021-22 lower by Rs 11,000 crore than last year.
  • Real investment in agriculture has been lower than 2013-14 for every year of this government.

Lack of attention on employment generation in rural area

  • The lifeline provided by expenditure in rural areas on infrastructure creation and employment generation has either seen a decline in budgeted expenditure or remained stagnant.
  • The budget for the ministry of rural development is lower by Rs 66,000 crore compared to the RE of last year.
  • The MGNREGA budget of Rs 73,000 crore is barely enough to cover the increase in wages by 11 per cent announced in March.
  • It is only 1.8 per cent higher than the actual expenditure of 2019-20, but 52 per cent lower than the RE of last year.
  • Similarly, for the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna (PMGSY), the budget for 2021-22 has been cut by Rs 4,500 crore, not even enough to cover inflation between the two years.

Consider the question “The Budget 2021-22 has been hailed for bringing in more transparency to the budgeting exerciese? Examine the context for this, how it will benefit the country?”

Conclusion

Estimates for next year point to missed opportunities to use fiscal measures to revive the ailing economy. Unlike the pandemic, where the arrival of vaccines has given hope, the ailing economy needs much more than this budget.

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