For me, the biggest positive about this budget is the strong endorsement of Aadhaar. Legislative backing will remove the legal clouds that had prevented full use of this solid platform. By using the platform for better targeting of benefits & services, the government is providing a use-case that will spur the private sector to build an ecosystem of applications around Aadhaar/India Stack. The Digital Literacy Mission Scheme for rural India help close the digital gap enabling all citizens to benefit from the platform.
At a time when the strong domestic growth picture is being affected by weaker global factors, the finance minister has courageously stuck to a path of fiscal consolidation. By staying disciplined but focusing on realigning expenditure towards infrastructure segments, the budget pushes sustainable growth for rural & urban India.
The numerous tax policy changes that promote MakeInIndia, StartupIndia and DigitalIndia as well as steps to further improve Ease Of Doing Business will help generate employment for millions by making entrepreneurship easier. I am very happy that the budget adds to the other steps the government has been taking in this regard.
Direct Benefits Transfer(DBT) and the Jan Dhan, Aadhaar, Mobile (JAM) trinity is a topic that has been discussed extensively in recent days after the Economic Survey. The budget announcement of a pilot project on bringing fertiliser subsidies under DBT is a positive since it will lead to higher utilization of banking and other financial services in rural areas. As a number of payment banks get launched over the next 12 months, the last mile access problem between bank and beneficiary will be addressed, enabling more widespread DBT.
The Finance Minister’s comments on installation of ATM/micro-ATMs in post-offices will also have a huge effect on further expanding the reach of formal banking services. As a result of all of these, we can expect higher efficiency as well as large cost savings.
Finally, in the budget, the finance minister has proposed a 1% tax on cash payments greater than Rs. 2 lakhs. Such a levy can help expand the tax base. It will also eliminate cash-handling costs for recipients and over a period of time, tilt the balance away from cash, providing the backdrop for a less-cash society.
Vijay Shekhar Sharma is the founder and CEO, Paytm
The views expressed are personal.