Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made her third Union Budget speech for fiscal year 2022-2023 on February 1, promising a focus on youth, women and farmers.
Sitharaman started off by highlighting that this year's budget would be laying down a blueprint from India at 75 years of Independence, to 100 years of Independence, which she termed as the 'Amrit Kaal'.
Furthermore, the finance minister mentioned seven focus areas of budget - PM Gati Shakti, inclusive development, productivity enhancement and investment, sunrise opportunities, energy transition and climate action and financing of investments.
Here are the top takeaways from Sitharaman's speech:
1. PM Gati Shakti Project
Sitharaman stressed on furthering the PM Gati Shakti project to promote 7 engines of growth - roads, railways airports, ports, mass transport, waterways and logistics.
She announced an expansion of the National Highway network by 25,000 kms in this fiscal year under the PM Gati Shakti project, for which Rs. 20,000 crore will be financed by the government. 100 cargo terminals will also be developed in the next few years under this project, she added.
Following a year of farmers' protests due to the now-repealed farm reform laws, the finance minister made some crucial announcements aimed at boosting the agriculture sector.
On the issue of procurement, Sitharaman promised the procurement of 1208 lakh metric of wheat and paddy from 163 lakh farmers in Rabi season 2021-22 and Kharif season 2021-2022. She also added that Rs. 2.37 lakh crores will be transferred directly to the accounts of farmers for the direct payment of MSP.
3. Digital Currency and Assets
Following a year that saw tremendous growth in cryptocurrency and digital assets around the world, Sitharaman finally made the much-awaited announcement of an Indian digital currency. The Reserve Bank of India will be launching the digital currency using blockchain, in FY 2023.
But for cryptocurrency investors, there is bad news. The finance minister announced a whopping 30 per cent tax on income from transfer of any virtual digital asset, along with the TDS of 1 per cent to be levied for transfer, above a certain monetary threshold. Losses from such assets cannot be setoff against other income.
4. Youth, Education
To boost youth employment, Sitharaman announced an AVGC task force to boost the animation, visual effects, gaming and comics sector.
She also announced the expansion of 'One Class One TV Channel' to be increased from 12 to 200 TV channels, allowing states to provide supplementary education in regional languages. A digital university is to be developed to provided world-class education to students with ISTE standards, she said.
A digital university will be developed to provide access to students for world-class quality education with ISTE Standards.
4. MSME, Start-ups
The Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme for MSMEs shall be extended to March 2023, and further expanded. With an additional cover of Rs. 50,000, thee total cover by the scheme now stands at Rs. 5 lakh crore.
In a major relief for tax payers, updated or corrected returns can be filed within 2 years from the relevant assessment year.
Furthermore, the tax deduction limit for both Central and State government employees will be increased from 10 per cent to 14 per cent. Sitharaman said that this is being done to bring the social security benefits of state government employees at part with that of Central government employees.
Additionally, surcharge on transfer of Long Term Capital Gains tax has now been capped at 15%.
6. Affordable Housing and Water Supply
Housing projects will now be allotted Rs. 48.000 crore under PM Awas Yojana. 60,000 houses will be identified as beneficiaries under this scheme in rural and urban areas.
Rs. 60,000 crore to be allotted to Har Ghar Nal Se Jal scheme this fiscal year. The scheme currently covers 8.7 crore households, out of which 5.5 crore households were provided tap water in the last two years, she added.
7. SEZ Act to be replaced
Sitharaman announced that The Special Economic Zones Act will now be replaced with a new legislation for the development of enterprise and hubs. It will also cover the existing industrial enclaves and enhance the competitiveness of exports, she added.
She also announced the rollout of an open platform for National Digital Health Ecosystem. It will consist of digital registries of health providers and health facilities, unique health identity and universal access to health facilities, she added.
A National Tele Mental Health programme was also announced, to provide better mental health services and care to people.
9. Fiscal Deficit Target
The total expenditure for this fiscal year is estimated at Rs. 39.45 lakh crore, while the receipts are estimated at Rs. 22.84 lakh core.
This fiscal deficit target for FY23 is projected at 6.4 per cent of GDP.
10. Boosting Domestic Defence Manufacturing
Sitharaman added that 68 per cent of defence procurement budget will be earmarked for domestic private industry, in order to boost Atmanirbhar Defence Manufacturing.