Budget may not be populist but will not disappoint either

Budget may not be populist but will not disappoint either

The last full Budget of the NDA government may not be a populist one but it will not disappoint citizens either.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley appears to have pulled out all the stops to ensure the Budget is growth-oriented and has a bit of feel good for all sections.

Critical areas will be addressing unemployment and farm distress.

He will also look for avenues to increase investment in those sectors which have maximum potential to create jobs.

Construction and real estate are the ones which will draw much of his attention as the sector is the second largest employer after agriculture but has been reeling under the rough weather since demonetisation.

Data suggests only around 8.5 lakh jobs have been created since 2014 as against the government's promise of one crore every year.

The expectation is that the finance minister will reduce corporate tax to 25% from the current 30%.

If not, Jaitley may give a fresh roadmap on how he is going to do it.

He is also expected to enhance tax deductions and exemptions for individual taxpayers. This will substantially satisfy the salaried and business class.

Sectorally, Jaitley's focus will be on agriculture and what he can do to double farmers' income by 2022. The sector's growth is forecast to plummet to 2.1% this year as against 4% last year.

He may allocate funds proportionally to irrigation and crop insurance. Subsidies are also not ruled out to those who evince interest in building a storage facility.

In infrastructure sector, road construction has shown signs of revival but railways, ports, seaports, and air connectivity and modernisation have been laggard.

One of the worries for the government of late has been rising petroleum prices. A hike in cooking gas rates for rural consumers has taken the sheen out of the flagship Ujjawala yojana - free LPG connection to rural poor.

With this in view, Jaitley may announce significant concession for crude oil exploration and production in India to reduce imports.

Plans are also afoot to provide smaller LPG cylinders to rural folk who find it difficult to buy LPG at Rs 736 per refill.

Smaller cylinders may cost Rs 350 and can be affordable for village households.

Incentives may also come with popularising digital payment infrastructure.

The real estate sector is expecting to get infrastructure status to make 'Housing for All by 2022' a reality.

Jaitley may also announce a timeline for inclusion of real estate and petroleum products in the ambit of GST.

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