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Agriculture and Health: What to Expect from Govt’s ‘Feel Good’ Budget Next Year

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman

The Union budget will focus on two key areas – agriculture and health – with the purpose of job creation to increase the spending power of people. The main purpose of the stimulus packages announced by the finance ministry in several key sectors has been to ensure that people are not scared to open their wallets.

General budgets are looked at with hope and the upcoming one is no different. But when the world is reeling under a pandemic, presenting a feel-good budget is not easy. The government, however, has begun working on such a budget and given the limitations, it promises to be a hopeful one.

Sources told News18 that the Union budget will focus on two key areas – agriculture and health – with the purpose of job creation to increase the spending power of people. The main purpose of the stimulus packages announced by the finance ministry in several key sectors has been to ensure that people are not scared to open their wallets.

The drop in the rate of GDP contraction, the fact that no major corporate is cutting jobs, and green shoots in the economy that finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has repeatedly referred to are encouraging signs. Sources say the budget is likely to take this optimism forward.

The government is watching the protests by farmers very closely but is convinced that it can eventually persuade the protesters on the new farm reforms. Sources say the budget for agriculture sector will go up substantially. On the cards are more incentives for farmers who want to sell directly, more APMCs to be facilitated, and an enhanced budget for more cash to be deposited into small farmers’ account. If talks with farmers don’t work out, the government is likely to make an announcement on MSP during the budget speech and could give a formal structure to it in the budget as well.

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Extension and enhanced insurance for some crops, monetary help for new and alternative cropping pattern are some of the proposals on the table. The government hopes that focus on agriculture and farmers will also blunt criticism from some opposition parties and farmers’ unions.

The other focus of the budget will be on the health sector. The government is hopeful that a vaccine would be ready by the time the budget is presented in February. Sources say provisions are being made in the budget to ensure improved medical facilities apart accepting some states’ request for more funds to deal with the vaccination process. The government also plans to honour health workers and police with better allocation.

Stimulus for growth-pushing sectors like hospitality, roads and highways, infrastructural firms are also on the cards. Sources say the government is “actively” considering tax relief for salaried class to ensure they carry more home to spend.

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