A peek into Sitharaman’s next Budget

The next annual budget of India will have to be very carefully structured to sustain the country’s growth momentum, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Tuesday, noting that it will also address inflation concerns.

Visiting Washington DC to attend the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the finance minister was responding to a question on the next year’s Budget at a fire-side chat with eminent economist Eshwar Prasad at the prestigious Brookings Institute.

“Specifics (of the next Budget) may be difficult at this stage because it’s a bit too early.

“But broadly, the growth priorities will be kept absolutely on the top.

“Even as I speak about the concerns that inflation brings before me. So, inflation concerns will have to be addressed.

“But then how would you manage growth would be the natural question,” Sitharaman said.

India’s next annual budget is scheduled to be presented by Sitharaman before the Parliament next February and preparations for it are likely to begin in December.

“But that’s the point of being sure how you’re going to be able to balance the two and be sure that the momentum that the Indian economy has got coming out of the pandemic and the momentum with which it will grow even the next year, even as per the many many multilateral institutions which are observing India cannot be weakened,” she said.

“So, it will have to again be a very carefully structured Budget in which growth momentum will have to be sustained,” Sitharaman said.

Responding to a question, the minister said the global stress that hits India — the energy, fertiliser or food — “all of this we are carefully watchful, and making sure that stress doesn’t get passed on to the people,” she said.

That is why once before the probably last year and once in early June this year, the excise duty on fuel was brought down so that the common citizen doesn’t bear the brunt of increasing fuel prices.

“That is one way in which we’re making sure that those of the vulnerable sections don’t get hurt. Giving food another,” she said.

“Empowering is the principle rather than entitlement,” Sitharaman said in response to another question.

“So, the principle of entitlement vs empowerment is what is governing us when we deal with schemes which will touch the vulnerable sections,” she said.

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