“This is the first Budget in Amrit Kaal” were the exact words that Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman spoke as she rose to present the 2023 Union Budget that charters India’s growth story for the next 25 years. The backdrop of the Budget, in which the FM boldly and calmly presented the Budget Estimates, is a double-barrelled gun — a forthcoming global economic slowdown and heavy political traffic inching towards Parliamentary election for the world’s largest functioning democracy. With the trigger ready for actuation, it requires statesmanship and assertive leadership to marry India’s 25-year journey with the current global reality. Here is how the FM invoked the Saptarishis to undertake the Budget Saptapadi.
The complementing Saptarishis — Inclusive Development, Reaching the Last Mile, Infrastructure and Investment, Unleashing the Potential, Green Growth, Youth Power, and Financial Sector — were invoked as Budget priorities. The Budget’s inclusive development agenda was sweeping in its coverage — to include north-eastern region development, women and children welfare, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes enrichment — with a total estimate of ₹7,00,307 crore. This 10 per cent increase over the revised 2022 estimates is truly inclusive, as is the 16 per cent of the total estimated Budget expenditure. The record outlay for railways, roadways and waterways, along with certain mission mode initiatives like the 100 critical transport infrastructure project with a ₹75,000 crore investment pipeline and an urban infrastructure development fund of ₹10,000 crore, is a full-engine vehicle to leverage transit-oriented socio-economic development.
The FM’s ‘lead by example’ mode of Budget allocation for effective capital expenditure to the tune of ₹13-lakh crore along with incentives to States and private investment has ushered the Amrit Kaal with a huge baby step in the area of infrastructure and investment.
The Economic Survey pointed out the capacity utilisation settling at 75 per cent, clearly indicating the growing appetite to meet surging demands on an investment highway that is filled with banking stations with strong balance sheets. Though the global slowdown is a cautionary hiccup, the capex feast is getting ready to be cooked.
The digital push in almost all critical sectors like agriculture, education, finance, etc., is a recipe for creating a multiplier effect through 5G applications in 100 labs in educational institutions, artificial intelligence research centres and other digital symptoms unleashing the potential of progressive technology disruption.
True to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reflection of India’s trusteeship towards nature, the Budget’s greening of India through energy evacuation, storage, transition and waste-to-wealth plans take India into global limelight. India’s youthful power cannot be leveraged better than the ambitious next generational PM Kasuhal Vikas Yojana 4.0, the digital skilling platform and a fresh infusion of ₹2,280 crore for the skilling and entrepreneurship promotion scheme.
The financial sector reforms, besides the additional facilities to SMEs and strengthening the digital services, reflect the government’s boldness in not resorting to election time profligacy. From a record 9.3 per cent fiscal deficit in 2020-21 to an estimated 5.9 per cent for 2023-24 and a confident roadmap for achieving the targeted 4.5 per cent by 2025-26, the FM has sent the right signal to the stakeholders at large.
The Government doesn’t want its first Amrit Kaal Budget to be malnourished before its first birthday but is preparing it to be well-nourished adult ready for 2047. This is socio-politico-economic statesmanship at its tallest best for the fastest growing economy in the world. The Budget through its Saptrishi priorities has achieved global relevance, digital dominance, youthful effervescence, social munificence, infrastructural excellence, rural significance and fiscal prudence. These are FM’s Saptapadis (seven steps of togetherness) as she brings together the current global realities and the future of India at 2047.
As an academic practitioner and administrator, I feel that charitable institutions and trusts could have been given a better treatment. However, as an aspirational Indian I see it as a blueprint for a resurgent India that will matter the most to the world.
The writer is Tata Sons Chair Professor of Management and Vice-chancellor, SASTRA Deemed University. Views are personal
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