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  Business   In Other News  22 Dec 2017  Budget to focus on rural areas

Budget to focus on rural areas

REUTERS
Published : Dec 22, 2017, 3:14 am IST
Updated : Dec 22, 2017, 3:14 am IST

In 2018 and early 2019, there will be eight state elections in the heartland, leading up to a national election in 2019.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Photo: PTI)
 Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: The Centre will likely increase funding for the farm and rural sectors in the Budget for the coming fiscal year, finance ministry officials said, to shore up political support in the countryside ahead of a raft of elections.

“The next budget will focus on farmers, rural jobs and infrastructure while making all attempts to follow a fiscal prudence path,” a senior finance ministry official told Reuters.

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government won an election in his home state of Gujarat this week, but only just as it faced discontent fuelled by falling farm incomes and a lack of jobs.

In 2018 and early 2019, there will be eight state elections in the heartland, leading up to a national election in 2019.

On February 1, finance minister Arun Jaitley is expected to present his last full-year Budget, for FY19 that begins April 1.

Annual farm growth dipped to 1.7 per cent in the three months ending September, mainly on lower prices and output, while economic growth accelerated to 6.3 per cent after growing at a three-year low of 5.7 per cent in the previous quarter.

 

“The government can’t afford farmers’ anger anymore, and will try to boost the economic growth and pump in more funds in the farm sector,” the official said.

“It will not be a populist but a pragmatic budget.” Mr Jaitley has signalled that his priority will be allocating more funds for rural and infrastructure sectors.

Mr  Modi has indicated that he would like to achieve 7.5 per cent to 8 percent annual economic growth before entering the election campaign, said another official.

An aide to Mr Modi said, “Every attempt is being made to make it a populist budget.”

Higher procurement prices for different crops could be offered to farmers following lower output this year. There will be tax reforms, the aide said, referring to corporate demand to lower tax rates.

 

The Centre, which faced a severe revenue shortfall after the chaotic launch of GST in July, plans to increase this fiscal year’s target of receipts from the privatisation of state firms by one-fourth to a record Rs 1 trillion ($15.60 billion).

“The target (share-sale) will be revised soon as we expect to receive about Rs 400 billion from ONGC by March for the sale of the government stake in Hindustan Petroleum,” another senior finance ministry official said.

Both ministry officials spoke on condition of anonymity.

By December 15, the government had raised near $8 billion from the sale of shares in companies, more than 70 percent of the full-year target.

 

Tags: narendra modi, budget, rural jobs