India held ground in tough times: Jaitley
Arun Jaitley, the Finance Minister of India began his budget speech by exclaiming that despite tough times "India has held its ground firmly". Jaitley said that the government would base its "transformative agenda" for the economy on 9 pillars in the coming year. Agriculture and farmers' welfare was given prime importance with almost Rs.35,984 crore allocated to this sector.
9 pillars of 2016-17 Budget — Agriculture and farmers' welfare, rural sector, social sector including healthcare; education and skills, job creation, infrastructure, ease of doing business & fiscal discipline and tax reforms to reduce compliance burden.
Giving primary importance to the rural sector, Jaitley allocated Rs.38,500 crore for MNREGA- highest ever for the rural employment scheme. Rs.2.87 lakh crore was set aside for gram panchayats. Jaitley said that unified e-platform for farmers would be inaugurated on Ambedkar's birthday. Furthermore, the government would revamp agricultural policy to double profit in 5 years and aims to bring 28.5 lakh hectares under irrigation.
The FM emphasised on the need for higher education and allocated Rs.1000 crores towards it. 6 crore households were proposed to be covered under digital literacy scheme in next 3 years. Rs.1,000 crore for higher education financing would be provided. 62 new Navodaya Vidyalayas to be started in 2 years. Under the National Skill Development Mission, 1,500 multi-skill training institutes to be opened.
No revision was made to the present income tax slabs in the 2016-17 budget. A relief of Rs.3000 per year would be given to taxpayers with income below Rs.5 lakh per year. From 1 March 2016, new firms would be taxed at 25% plus cess plus surcharge (corporate tax). However, start-ups were given 100% tax exemption for 3 years (barring minimum alternative tax).
For those whose income would exceed Rs. 1 crore per annum, a 15% surcharge on income tax would be levied. This surcharge was 12 percent until now.
FM said that Rs.2,21,246 crores would go towards strengthening infrastructure. He allocated Rs.55,000 crores for roads and highways, with the total investment in road sector pegged at Rs.97,000 crores. 160 airports and airstrips would be revived at Rs.50-100 crores (each). Public sector banks being an intrinsic part of the infrastructure, Rs.25,000 crores were set aside for their recapitalization in the 2016-17 budget.
The government allotted Rs.500 crore for scheduled caste, scheduled tribes and women entrepreneurs under the Stand Up India scheme. Rs. 9,000 crores were earmarked for the Swachch Bharat Abhiyan scheme. Small shops would be given the option to remain open on Sundays too. The Union Budget 2016-17 proposed to amend the RBI Act to set up monetary policy committee.