With the world's biggest vaccination drive launched in India, hopes have soared that the Covid-19 pandemic will become a thing of the past and the country will move ahead to achieve the $5 trillion economy target by 2024.
And the aspiration is not unfounded with some economic indicators pointing at the faster recovery than expected in a pandemic scenario. Though the task is cut out for Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to meet the challenges and bolster the economy accordingly presenting a Union Budget 'like never before' on February 1, 2021.
After announcing a series of stimulus packages to buttress the economy, the finance minister has an opportunity to lay out a fiscal blueprint - paperless for the first time - to strengthen the distressed sectors and encourage the promising ones alike, keeping in mind the expectations of the common man as well.
Taxpayers: With salary cuts and extra expenditures, the salaried class is one of the most affected groups grappling with the pandemic. They expect some relief from the finance minister in terms of incentives and subsidies. Be it the realignment of tax rates with an enhanced income tax exemption or a hike in the standard deduction from existing Rs 50,000 to Rs 100,000 per annum. They also expect the government to increase the deduction limits for health check-ups and other medical costs in the pandemic period.
Women: After the lockdown imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus, the women workforce has been hit the hardest with 13.9 per cent job losses in April 2020 alone. According to Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), till November last year out of total job losses 49% of them were women.
Now the finance minister needs to support them finding ways to bring them back in the workforce and create equitable opportunities for other aspirants. The measures include helping them in self-employed entrepreneurship. The homemakers on the other hand demand cheaper household and other essential items.
Senior Citizens: There is no doubt elderly people have suffered the most due to the Covid-19 situation and they have high expectations from the Union Budget. In India, senior citizens account for around 8 to 9 per cent of the population and over 60 lakh of them are taxpayers. They want to make their income completely tax free, or at least extra exemptions and deductions. They also hope for higher interest rates on their savings.
Youth: While unemployment has been a long-standing issue in the country, it reached a high of 7.8 per cent in November 2020, out of which youth unemployment constituted more than 20 per cent. Now, apart from significant budgetary allocation on education and skill development, the government needs to focus on building the entrepreneurial capability of rural youth through training and other supports. The move will create a chain of micro-enterprises in rural areas and will also generate more job opportunities.
Businessmen: Essentially, GDP is the biggest concern for the government, with the latest date indicating 7.7 per cent contraction in 2020-21. The reason why Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is focussed on reviving growth and uplifting the pandemic-hit sectors. And, from Dalal Street to faraway corners in the country, the businessmen and traders want a growth-oriented budget that ensures ease in doing business and access to funds, even if fiscal consolidation is shelved for later years.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not reflect the views of India TV )
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