Budget 2018-2019

Speech of

Arun Jaitley

Minister of Finance

February 1, 2018

Section I

Governance, Economy and Development

Madam Speaker,

1. I rise to present the Budget for 2018-19.

2. Madam, four years ago, we pledged to the people of India to give this nation an honest, clean and transparent Government. We promised a leadership capable of taking difficult decisions and restoring strong performance of Indian economy. We promised to reduce poverty, expedite infrastructure creation and build a strong, confident and a New India. When our Government took over, India was considered a part of fragile 5; a nation suffering from policy paralysis and corruption. We have decisively reversed this. The Government, led by Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, has successfully implemented a series of fundamental structural reforms. With the result, India stands out among the fastest growing economies of the world.

3. The journey of economic reforms during the past few years has been challenging but rewarding. As a result of the reforms undertaken by the Government, foreign direct investment has gone up. Measures taken by the Government have made it much easier to do business in India. Natural resources are now allocated in a transparent and honest manner. There is a premium on honesty. There was a time when corruption was commonplace. Today, our people, especially our youths, are curious to lead their lives honestly. The indirect tax system, with introduction of Goods and Services Tax, has been made simpler. Benefits to the poor have been targeted more effectively with use of digital technology. The demonetization of high value currency has reduced the quantum of cash currency and circulation in India. It has increased the taxation base and spurred greater digitization of the economy. The Insolvency and 2 Bankruptcy Code (IBC) has changed the lender-debtor relationship. The recapitalized banks will now have a greater ability to support growth. All these structural reforms in the medium and long run will help Indian economy achieve stronger growth for a long time.

4. Indian economy has performed very well since our Government took over in May, 2014. India achieved an average growth of 7.5% in first three years of our Government. Indian economy is now 2.5 trillion dollar economy – seventh largest in the world. India is expected to become the fifth largest economy very soon. On Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) basis, we are already the third largest economy.

5. Indian society, polity and economy had shown remarkable resilience in adjusting with the structural reforms. GDP growth at 6.3% in the second quarter signaled turnaround of the economy. We hope to grow at 7.2% to 7.5% in the second half. IMF, in its latest Update, has forecast that India will grow at 7.4% next year. Manufacturing sector is back on good growth path. The services, mainstay of our growth, have also resumed their high growth rates of 8% plus. Our exports are expected to grow at 15% in 2017-18. We are now firmly on course to achieve high growth of 8% plus.

6. We have taken up programmes to direct the benefits of structural changes and good growth to reach farmers, poor and other vulnerable sections of our society and to uplift the under-developed regions. This year’s Budget will consolidate these gains and particularly focus on strengthening agriculture and rural economy, provision of good health care to economically less privileged, taking care of senior citizens, infrastructure creation and working with the States to provide more resources for improving the quality of education in the country.

7. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has always stressed importance of good governance. He has articulated the vision of ‘‘Minimum Government and Maximum Governance’’. This vision has inspired Government agencies in carrying out hundreds of reforms in policies, rules and procedures. This transformation is reflected in improvement of India’s ranking by 42 places in last three years in the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ with India breaking into top 100 for the first time. I would like to congratulate all those who worked to achieve this.

8. Now, our Government has taken Ease of Doing business further by stress on 'Ease of Leaving' for the common men of this country, especially for those belonging to poor & middle class of the society. Good governance also aims at minimum interference by the government in the life of common people of the country. 

9. Government is providing free LPG connections to the poor of this country through Ujjwala Yojana. Under Saubhagya Yojna 4 crore household are being provided with electricity connections. More than 800 medicines are being sold at lower price through more than 3 thousand Jan Aushadhi Centres. Cost of stents have been controlled. Special scheme for free dialysis of poor have been initiated. Persons belonging to poor and middle class are also being provided a great relief in interest rates on housing schemes. Efforts are being made to provide all government services, whether bus or train tickets or individual certificates on line. These include passports which may be delivered at doorstep in two or three days or Company registration in one day time and these facilities have benefited a large section of our country. Certificate attestation is not mandatory, interviews for appointment in Group C and Group D posts have been done away with. These measures have saved time and money of lakhs of our youth. Our Government by using modern technology is committed to provide a relief to those who suffer because of rigid rules and regulations.

10. Madam, while undertaking these reforms and programmes, we have worked sincerely and without weighing the political costs. Our Government has ensured that benefits reach eligible beneficiaries and are delivered to them directly. Many services and benefits are being delivered to the people at their doorsteps or in their accounts. It has reduced corruption and cost of delivery and has eliminated middlemen in the process. Direct Benefit Transfer mechanism of India is the biggest such exercise in the world and is a global success story

Section II

Investment, Expenditure and Policy Initiatives

Agriculture and Rural Economy

11. My Government is committed for the welfare of farmers. For decades, country’s agriculture policy and programme had remained production centric. We have sought to effect a paradigm shift.

Honourable Prime Minister gave a clarion call to double farmers’ income by 2022 when India celebrates its 75th year of independence. Our emphasis is on generating higher incomes for farmers. We consider agriculture as an enterprise and want to help farmers produce more from the same land parcel at lesser cost and simultaneously realize higher prices for their produce. Our emphasis is also on generating productive and gainful on-farm and non-farm employment for the farmers and landless families.

12. Madam Speaker, as a result of the hard work of our country's farmers agriculture production in our country is at a record level. Doing the year 2016-17 we achieved a record food grain production of around 275 million tonnes and around 300 million tonnes of fruits and vegetables.

13. Madam Speaker, in our party's manifesto it has been stated that the farmers should realize at least 50 per cent more than the cost of their produce, in other words, one and a half times of the cost of their production. Governments have been very much sensitive to this resolutions and it has declared Minimum support price (MSP) for the majority of rabi crops at least at one and a half times the cost involved. Now, we have decided to implement this resolution as a principle for the rest of crops. I am pleased to announce that as per pre-determined principle, Government has decided to keep MSP for the all unannounced crops of kharif at least at one and half times of their production cost. I am confident that this historic decision will prove an important step towards doubling the income of our farmers.

14. Our Government works with the holistic approach of solving any issue rather than in fragments. Increasing MSP is not adequate and it is more important that farmers should get full benefit of the announced MSP. For this, it is essential that if price of the agriculture produce market is less than MSP, then in that case Government should purchase either at MSP or work in a manner to provide MSP for the farmers through some other mechanism. Niti Ayog, in consultation with Central and State Governments, will put in place a fool-proof mechanism so that farmers will get adequate price for their produce.

15. For better price realization, farmers need to make decisions based on prices likely to be available after its harvest. Government will create an institutional mechanism, with participation of all concerned Ministries, to develop appropriate policies and practices for price and demand forecast, use of futures and options market, expansion of warehouse depository system and to take decisions about specific exports and imports related measures.

16. Madam Speaker, last year, I had announced strengthening of e-NAM and to expand coverage of e-NAM to 585 APMCs. 470 APMCs have been connected to e-NAM network and rest will be connected by March, 2018.

17. More than 86% of our farmers are small and marginal. They are not always in a position to directly transact at APMCs and other wholesale markets. We will develop and upgrade existing 22,000 rural haats into Gramin Agricultural Markets (GrAMs). In these GrAMs, physical infrastructure will be strengthened using MGNREGA and other Government Schemes. These GrAMs, electronically linked to e-NAM and exempted from regulations of APMCs, will provide farmers facility to make direct sale to consumers and bulk purchasers.

18. An Agri-Market Infrastructure Fund with a corpus of `2000 crore will be set up for developing and upgrading agricultural marketing infrastructure in the 22000 Grameen Agricultural Markets (GrAMs) and 585 APMCs.

19. Task of connecting all eligible habitations with an all-weather road has been substantially completed, with the target date brought forward to March, 2019 from March 2022. It is now time to strengthen and widen its ambit further to include major link routes which connect habitations to agricultural and rural markets (GrAMs), higher secondary schools and hospitals. Prime Minister Gram Sadak Yojana Phase III will include such linkages.

20. For several years, we have been stating that India is primarily an agriculture based country. As India is primarily an agriculture based country, our districts can specialize in some or other agricultural produce and be known for it. But special attention is lacking in this regard. There is a need to develop cluster based model in a scientific manner for identified agriculture produces in our districts in the same manner as we have developed model for industrial sector.

21. Cultivation of horticulture crops in clusters bring advantages of scales of operations and can spur establishment of entire chain from production to marketing, besides giving recognition to the districts for specific crops. The Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare will reorient its ongoing Schemes and promote cluster based development of agricommodities and regions in partnership with the Ministries of Food Processing, Commerce and other allied Ministries.

22. Our Government has promoted organic farming in a big way. Organic farming by Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) and Village Producers’ Organizations (VPOs) in large clusters, preferably of 1000 hectares each, will be encouraged. Women Self Help Groups (SHGs) will also be encouraged to take up organic agriculture in clusters under National Rural Livelihood Programme.

23. Our ecology supports cultivation of highly specialized medicinal and aromatic plants. India is also home to a large number of small and cottage industries that manufacture perfumes, essential oils and other associated products. Our Government shall support organized cultivation and associated industry. I propose to allocate a sum of `200 crore for this purpose.

24. Food Processing sector is growing at an average rate of 8% per annum. Prime Minister Krishi Sampada Yojana is our flagship programme for boosting investment in food processing. Allocation of Ministry of Food Processing is being doubled from `715 crore in RE 2017-18 to `1400 crore in BE 2018-19. Government will promote establishment of specialized agro-processing financial institutions in this sector.

25. Tomato, onion and potato are basic vegetables consumed throughout the year. However, seasonal and regional production of these perishable commodities pose a challenge in connecting farmers and consumers in a manner that satisfies both. My Government proposes to launch an ‘‘Operation Greens’’ on the lines of ‘‘Operation Flood’’. ‘‘Operation Greens’’ shall promote Farmer Producers Organizations (FPOs), agri-logistics, processing facilities and professional management. I propose to allocate a sum of `500 crore for this purpose.

26. India’s agri-exports potential is as high as US $ 100 billion against current exports of US $ 30 billion. To realize this potential, export of agri-commodities will be liberalized. I also propose to set up state-of the- art testing facilities in all the forty two Mega Food Parks.

27. I propose to extend the facility of Kisan Credit Cards to fisheries and animal husbandry farmers to help them meet their working capital needs. Small and marginal farmers will get more benefits.

28. Bamboo is ‘Green Gold’. We removed bamboo grown outside forest areas from the definition of trees. Now, I propose to launch a Re-structured National Bamboo Mission with an outlay of `1290 crore to promote bamboo sector in a holistic manner.

29. Many farmers are installing solar water pumps to irrigate their fields. Generation of solar electricity is harvesting of Sun by the farmers using their lands. Government of India will take necessary measures and encourage State Governments to put in place a mechanism that their surplus solar power is purchased by the distribution companies or licencees at reasonably remunerative rates.

30. Our Government set up a Long Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF) in NABARD for meeting funding requirement of irrigation works. Scope of the Fund would be expanded to cover specified command area development projects.

31. Last year, I had announced setting up of Micro Irrigation Fund (MIF) for facilitating expansion of coverage under micro irrigation and Dairy Processing Infrastructure Development Fund (DPIDF) to help finance investment in dairying infrastructure. It is now time to expand such focused investment Funds. I, now, announce setting up a Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund (FAIDF) for fisheries sector and an Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF) for financing infrastructure requirement of animal husbandry sector. Total Corpus of these two new Funds would be `10,000 crore.

32. Our Government has been steadily increasing the volume of institutional credit for agriculture sector from year-to-year from `8.5 lakh crore in 2014-15 to `10 lakh crore in 2017-18. I now propose to raise this to `11 lakh crore for the year 2018-19.

33. Presently, lessee cultivators are not able to avail crop loans. Consequently, a significant proportion of arable land remains fallow and tenant cultivators are forced to secure credit from usurious money lenders. NITI Aayog, in consultation with State Governments, will evolve a suitable mechanism to enable access of lessee cultivators to credit without compromising the rights of the land owners.

34. Government will extend a favourable taxation treatment to Farmer Producers Organisations (FPOs) for helping farmers aggregate their needs of inputs, farm services, processing and sale operations. I shall give details in Part B of my speech.

35. Air pollution in the Delhi-NCR region has been a cause of concern. A special Scheme will be implemented to support the efforts of the governments of Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and the NCT of Delhi to address air pollution and to subsidize machinery required for institute management of crop residue.

To download the full Budget Speech click here

To download the Finance Bill 2018 click here

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