A Vellayan, Executive Chairman, Murugappa Group

Through a farmer friendly and development oriented Union Budget, the Finance Minister has adhered to fiscal discipline and yet managed to focus on key structural reforms in the Agri sector, apart from giving a necessary boost to the MSME segment. The Government’s continued impetus for youth skill development augurs well for the MSME sector.

Niti Aayog’s efforts to ensure institutional capital to lessee cultivators is a welcome move towards creating efficient lease markets and increased arable land. Other moves such as upgradation of rural haats to GrAMS, expanding the eNAM network and setting up agri market infra fund will take small and marginal farmers closer to their markets.

Liberalising export of agri commodities can increase openness of trade and boost farmer income. The plan to increase MSP by 1.5 times of cost of produce for kharif crops is a positive move; however, the inflationary impact on the economy needs to be assessed.

Encouraging Farmer Producer Organisations through 100% tax deduction, promoting cluster based organic farming by Self Help Groups and the launch of ‘Operation Greens’ is a necessary shot in the arm for increasing agricultural productivity.

The Finance Minister has laid special focus on the MSME sector by reducing the corporate tax rates and increasing credit support which in turn is expected to boost employment and profitability in the sector. The plan to introduce the Defence Production Policy 2018 to promote PPP in the defence sector will ensure increased private sector and MSME participation.

The launch of the Government-funded National Health Protection Scheme for poor and vulnerable families aimed at providing insurance cover of Rs. 5 Lakh per family for 10 crore families will ensure improved healthcare coverage. Other favourable measures include the standard deduction for salaried persons and the various tax exemption measures for senior citizens and pensioners.

Substantial allocations have been made towards affordable housing (Rs.27,500 crores), PM Rural Road Plan (Rs. 19,000 crores), National Education Mission (Rs.32,600 crores) and Swachh Bharat (Rs.17,800 crores).

The Union Budget 2018 aims to strengthen agriculture, rural development, healthcare & education MSME and infrastructure sectors while also providing relief to senior citizens and small corporates. Overall, sustained focus towards structural reforms, skill development and employment generation would have both short and long term benefits to the Economy.