Terming it a “positive budget”, NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar on Thursday said the 2018-19 Union Budget laid the foundation for achieving an 8% GDP growth rate by addressing the biggest challenges of transforming the agriculture sector and generating employment. “It is indeed a positive budget… Not only did the Finance Minister (in his Budget speech) say that the Minimum Support Price for Kharif crops would be 1.5 times the input cost, but he also talked about cluster development, linking farmer with the market and getting them fair price for their produce. He also focused on irrigation and rural infrastructure,” Kumar told DD News.
“The Budget made agriculture the centre of the economy because if farmer incomes double and agriculture sector progresses at a fast pace, our economy will grow at 8%,” he said. The NITI Aayog Vice Chairman added the focus on rural infrastructure and employment generation would also trigger growth. “If rural incomes rise, other things are linked with it. You will see in the coming time, our economy will grow over 7.5 to 8%”
Kumar also welcomed the government’s initiative of providing Rs five lakh health cover per year per family which is estimated to benefit around 50 crore people. “This is a landmark step and would benefit the poor. Its implementation will also generate employment. It is one of the most important aspects of this budget,” he said. Kumar added that in future, this scheme may go beyond covering the poor sections of the society and would cover the whole population irrespective of their economic status.
On fiscal deficit, Kumar said while the Finance Minister “had done very well to restrain fiscal deficit to 3.5 % in 2017-18, the extra borrowing will be used in enhancing productivity and supply-side response of the economy”. The Finance Minister had in last year’s Budget set a fiscal deficit target of 3.2 % 2017-18, which he revised upwards to 3.5 %. He set the next year’s fiscal deficit target at 3.3%