Speculations are running rife that the Budget 2018 will be a populist one, for many reasons, one of which is that it is the Modi government's last complete budget. Will Finance Minister Arun Jaitley fulfil the expectations of the aam aadmi? Will there be a change in tax slabs? Will medical reimbursement limit be increased? Will this Budget become the bellwether for the future ones in terms of agrarian policies and rural incentives? Will housing become more affordable? Will the minimum wage be increased? Will more jobs be created? Will there be additional exemption related to school education? While all that will be revealed today, reactions and expectations are already pouring in.
To begin with, former FM P Chidambaram has lashed out at the Modi government's promise of new jobs. "Take this new theory that we will create 75 lakh jobs by March in this country. I mean, you are exposed. Let`s look at the numbers. In 2014-15, the EPFO (Employees Provident Fund Organisation) numbers jumped by 23 lakh. It was when economy grew by 7.5 per cent. In 2015-16, EPFO numbers jumped by 25 lakh as the economy grew at 8 per cent. In 2016-17, it is expected to jump by 75 lakh. How can it jump by 75 lakh?" he said during a panel discussion at the release of his new book 'Speaking Truth to Power'.
Rural employment, agricultural reforms are key themes that have been discussed ahead of the budget. "Sixty-eight per cent people are living in villages. We need to provide better skills to rural India. The government should provide more Budget for creating jobs in rural India than urban India," says RS Sodhi, CEO of Amul.
"We have to invest in agriculture productivity, skill building and overhauling the education system. The government should execute the reforms during the last three years efficiently," said Saugata Gupta, MD and CEO of Marico.
"Nobody is preventing us from responding to it. If you want to be investor-friendly, you need to have policies to do that," Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Adviser of the Ministry of Finance responded referring to US tax cuts. "With the changing world in mind, we need to factor in as to how we should design our own tax policy. The government has already announced cutting corporate tax to 25%. The question is, should we look at some of these targets and numbers afresh," he added.