Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday made a veiled attack on the Congress in his Budget speech, saying that India was facing “policy paralysis and corruption” when the NDA assumed office and now the situation has reversed with the Modi government implementing a series of fundamental structural reforms. “There was a time when corruption was commonplace,” he said, adding that the people, especially the youth, are keen to “lead their lives honestly”. He said the government is capable of taking difficult decisions and restoring strong performance of the Indian economy. He said the reforms undertaken by the government have resulted in raising the Foreign Direct Investment and made it easier to do business in the country.
Natural resources are now allocated in a transparent and honest manner, the indirect tax system Goods and Services Tax (GST) has been made simpler, and benefits to the poor have been targeted more effectively with the use of digital technology, he said. The demonetization of high-value currency has reduced the quantum of cash currency and circulation in India. It has increased the taxation base and spurred greater digitization of the economy, Jaitley said, adding that “honest taxpayers took demonetisation as imandari ka utsav” (festival of honesty).
Jaitley said the government did not weigh the political costs while executing the several anti-corruption measures, including The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) that changed the lender-debtor relationship and the Direct Benefit Transfers (DBT) that ensured benefits reached the doorsteps of the people directly reducing corruption and cost of delivery. Talking about another concern of the poor, the Finance Minister said, “Far from the Benami properties earned by corruption, the poor only desire to have a roof, a small house by his earning of honesty.”
The government has fixed a target that every poor of the country would have a house by 2022. Under Prime Minister Awas Scheme Rural, 51 lakh houses in the year 2017-18 and 51 lakh houses during 2018-19 will be constructed exclusively in rural areas. In urban areas, the assistance has been sanctioned to construct 37 lakh houses. The government’s e-governance initiative includes a web-based Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS), which is administered by Controller General of Accounts, for budgeting, accounting, expenditure and cash management for all ministries and departments.
A Central Public Procurement Portal, which provides a single point access for all information on procurement, was used to invite over one lakh tenders valued at around Rs 2.40 lakh crore in November 2017 alone. The government has also proposed to amend the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015 to rationalise the designations of authorities competent to grant approval for penalty and prosecution.
Jaitley said there has been a huge increase in the number of returns filed by taxpayers. In the financial year 2016-17, 85.51 lakh new taxpayers filed their returns of income as against 66.26 lakh in the immediately preceding year. “We are enthused by this success of our measures and we pledge to continue to take all such measures in future by which the black money is contained and the honest taxpayers are rewarded.”