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Budget bytes: Bridging digital gap is paramount

Focus on skill development will make India future ready

By Prof MAHADEO JAISWAL

Director, IIM Sambalpur

Since the last Budget, the size of India’s economy has reduced from Rs 2.24 lakh crore nominal GDP to Rs 1.94 lakh crore. There has been lower-than-budgeted revenue growth and higher expenditure to tackle the negative impact of the pandemic. The very fact that Finance Minister delivered her budget speech with the help of a 'Made in India' tab to deliver India’s first paperless Budget address, accentuates the move from traditional to modern, yet keeping the essence alive.

Overall, Budget 2021 has been constructive considering the economy is in the revival mode. After a year of economic contraction, the Union Budget rightly focused on capital expenditure which was much needed. It needed to be more investment oriented rather than an income generating one.

Laying emphasis on development of infrastructure across the country was essential to contribute to the growth and create employment. Boosting the healthcare infrastructure is a welcome move as there was a yawning gap and a 130% jump in provision for the sector bears testimony to the fact that health of the nation is a priority. Privatisation of the public sector banks will increase efficiency in the banking sector and help in funds reducing NPAs. The MSME sector also required heightened allocations as this sector can help India reach its full potential.

I am glad Hon’ble Finance Minister doubled the allocation to this sector. Tax holidays and incentives given to start-ups will also bolster progress for the country and reinvigorate vocal for local. Focus on the manufacturing, automobile sector was much needed because India’s core strength lies in these sectors.

Automobile sector has been reeling under low demand and INR 5.54 trillion infusion in developing infrastructure around the country, which is expected to boost the demand for heavy and medium commercial vehicles is a welcome move. Overall Budget 2021-22 has the much needed financial impetus to augment India in becoming a $5 Trillion-dollar economy.

From Education standpoint, as was predicted, this Budget has also stressed upon the implementation of NEP 2020 with the setting up of new educational institutions across the country, in the remote corners and focusing on strengthening the quality of education in existing schools. The setting up of the Higher Education Commission will also add a structural reform and streamline the higher education scenario of the country.

Allocation of funds towards upskilling of the youth was an imperative. As Hon’ble Finance Minister rightly mentioned, channelization of the skill of our youth is of utmost importance which can fillip our economic development. The learning that we received from the pandemic has also been properly implemented by earmarking funds to support the research ecosystem of our country. This can create more job opportunities and reduce dependency on other countries.

Setting up of the National Digital Educational Architecture (NDEAR) is a positive step. However, some more stress had to put on the development of digital infrastructure of the country for the implementation of NEP 2020 and mitigating the challenges institutions are facing in remote learning.  A substantial step towards lessening the digital gap that exists would have helped make the education sector become future ready.

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