#Budget2018: Modi government's last full-budget to focus on "Connecting India"
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is gearing up to present the Budget 2018-19 on 1 February; Budget-related proceedings were also formally kicked off earlier. The Budget 2018 is crucial for the Modi-led government; it looks like the focus of this budget is on "Connecting India". Projects related to Internet connectivity in rural areas, aviation, and construction of roads are expected to be announced. Here's more.
Focus on development of infrastructure across India
The Modi government is likely to concentrate on developing the infrastructure required for connecting India in this Budget. The government may launch development projects across India. This budget is important for the BJP-led NDA government as it would affect its performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and also for PM Modi's plans to make the country a "stronger force in the world".
BharatNet project-related announcements expected to be made
The government's BharatNet project aims to provide broadband Internet connectivity to all Gram Panchayats, thereby covering almost all rural/remote areas. As of 31 Dec'17, over 100,000 Gram Panchayats were connected in BharatNet Phase-I. Over 250,000 Gram Panchayats would be connected under Phase-II by Mar'19; so, Jaitley is expected to allocate huge funds to BharatNet in Budget-2018. The Finance Ministry allocated Rs. 10,000cr to BharatNet.
What about expanding air connectivity to rural areas?
Civil Aviation Ministry wants to expand air-connectivity to rural areas, and Budget-2018 would focus on this. The Ministry aims to connect the "unserved" and "underserved" airports under Regional Connectivity Scheme. Under RCS Phase-I, 128 routes were allotted, but operations commenced on 50% of routes due to inadequate infrastructure at airports. So, Finance Ministry is likely to reserve some funds for developing the airports.
Modi government to build ring roads in 28 cities
Meanwhile, the Modi-led government is also planning to construct "ring roads" in 28 major cities, including Delhi, Noida, Agra, Lucknow, Bengaluru, Madurai, under the Rs. 6.92-trillion Bharatmala initiative that aims to "connect India". The estimated cost of building the ring roads is Rs. 36,290cr. Jaitley is expected to make some major announcement related to the project and allocate funds in Budget 2018.
Development is the only agenda for budget: PM Modi
"My government has only one agenda for the budget - and that is development," PM Narendra Modi said in a recent interview with Zee TV. The Budget 2018-19 holds great significance for the Modi government as it is the first post-GST rollout budget. Also, this would be the last full-fledged Budget by the incumbent BJP-led NDA government before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.