Arun Jaitley, Union Finance Minister, on 1 February 2017 presented the Union Budget 2017 in the Lok Sabha. In the independent India, this will be the third of the Modi Sarkar.
The Budget 2017 serves as the 87th budget of Independent India.
The Budget 2017, the third of the Modi Sarkar, is the first budget after introduction of three key changes to the budget process, i.e., merging of the Railway Budget with the General Budget, doing away with the classification of plan and non plan expenditure and advancing the budget presentation date by one month.
Herein, we present the proposals put forward by the Finanace Minister to reform financial sector:
• Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced a total allocation of Rs. 3,96,134 crore for the infrastructure sector for the year 2017-18. For transportation sector as a whole, including rail, roads, shipping, the Budget 2017 provides Rs. 241387 crores in 2017-18.
• Road Sector: The Budget allocation for the sector has been stepped up for Highways from Rs. 57976 crores in BE 2016-17 to Rs. 64900 crores in 2017-18. Furthermore, 2000 kms of coastal connectivity roads have been identified for construction and development to facilitate better connectivity with ports and remote villages. The total length of roads, including those under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), built from 2014-15 till the present year is about 140000 kilometeres. It is significantly higher than previous three years.
• Civil Aviation infrastructure: The select airports in Tier 2 cities will be taken up for operation and maintenance in the PPP mode. The Airport Authority of India Act will be amended to enable effective monetization of land assets. The resources will be utilized for airport upgradation.
• Railways: For 2017-18, the total capital and development expenditure on Railways has been pegged at Rs. 131000 crores. This includes Rs. 55000 crores provided by the Union Government.
As per the Finance Minister, the Railways will focus on four major areas: passenger safety, capital and development works, cleanliness, and finance and accounting reforms.
Railway lines of 3500 kms will be commissioned in 2017-18, as against 2800 kms in 2016-17.
500 stations will be made differently abled friendly by providing lifts and escalators.
The ‘Coach Mitra’ facility, a single window interface to register all coach related complaints and requirements, is also proposed to be introduced.
Service charge on e-tickets booked through IRCTC has been withdrawn. Cashless reservations have gone up from 58 per cent to 68 per cent.
A new Metro Rail Policy will be announced with focus on innovative models of implementation and financing, as well as standardization and indigenization of hardware and software.
• Telecom sector: The allocation for the BharatNet Project has been raised up to Rs.10000 crores in 2017-18. Also, 155000 kms of Optical Fiber Cables have been laid. By the end of 2017-18, high speed broadband connectivity on optical fiber will be available in more than 150000 gram panchayats, with wifi hot spots and access to digital services at low tariffs. A DigiGaon initiative will be launched to provide tele-medicine, education and skills through digital technology.
• Energy sector: The Union Government decided to set up Strategic Crude Oil Reserves. In the first phase, 3 such Reserve facilities have been set up. It is proposed that caverns will be set up at 2 more locations, namely, Chandikhole in Odisha and Bikaner in Rajasthan, in the second phase. This will take the India’s strategic reserve capacity to 15.33 MMT.
The Finance Minister also proposed to create an integrated public sector oil major, which will be able to match the performance of international and domestic private sector oil and gas companies.
Announcement for the second phase of Solar Park development was also proposed to be taken up for additional 20000 MW capacity.
• On the other hand, allocation for incentive schemes like M-SIPS and EDF have been exponentially increased to an all-time high of Rs. 745 crores in 2017-18. Further, a new and restructured Central scheme, namely, Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES) will be launched in 2017-18 to focus on export infrastructure in a competitive world.