Welfare, infrastructure schemes may be focus of Union Budget 2022
Union Budget 2022 will continue to focus on transformational reforms introduced by the Narendra Modi government in the last seven years
The government’s ongoing discussions related to Union Budget 2022-23 (which is less than 100 days away) are primarily centered around two key points, welfare schemes and infrastructure development, with special emphasis on direct benefit transfer (DBT), public procurement through GeM portal, technology-based governance, fund allocations to the North-east, and gender and child budgeting, two officials aware of the matter said.
The finance ministry aims to finalise a provisional budget estimate statement before the first advance estimates of GDP are released on January 7 next year. Thereafter, it will finalise a detailed demand for grants by January 21, 2022, they said, requesting anonymity.
“Pre-budget discussions with ministries and departments are being held at North Block on similar lines. The budget estimates for FY23 will be provisionally finalised after the expenditure secretary completes discussions,” one of the two, a government official, said. The finance ministry started its month-long pre-budget meetings with about four dozen ministries and government institutions on October 12.
The finance ministry is expecting a provisional statement of budget estimates to be ready in the Union Budget Information System (UBIS) by December 17, and a final version of detailed demands for grants by January 21, a second official said. UBIS is a dedicated software for the Union budget where all data related to the budget will be fed. It will ease the budget-making exercise and ensure accuracy.
The budget will continue to focus on transformational reforms introduced by the Narendra Modi government in the last seven years, such as eliminating poverty through employment and skilling, development of rural and urban infrastructure , raising farmers’ income, and addressing issues of environment and climate change, the official said.
The budget will continue its focus on agriculture, rural connectivity, drinking water mission, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (clean India mission), nutrition, and health and education, including midday meal scheme, he added.
All ministries and departments will make efforts to maximise reach of welfare schemes to the beneficiaries through direct benefit transfer (DBT) to eliminate leakage of subsidies, which will result into savings of public money, he said.
The government, which is encouraging public procurement through its own online platform Government e-Marketplace (GeM), is reviewing its progress as a part of ongoing pre-budget exercise, this official said. The GeM portal has served orders worth ₹1,52,706 crore from over 3 million registered sellers and service providers since its inception in August 2017.
“The government will continue to have special focus on the northeast, women and children in the budget next year. Barring a few, all departments have been asked to allocate 10% of their funds for the northeastern region, including Sikkim,” the first official said. Some departments exempted from this are are atomic energy, space, science and technology, and scientific and industrial research, he explained, but even they would try to do so.
The officials said all discussions have had an element of gender and child budgeting. “Ministries and departments have been asked to make existing schemes and programmes more gender inclusive as every arm of the government touches lives of women. Hence, they have been asked to submit a gender budget statement for 2022-23,” the second official said.
Similarly, the budget will also focus on the welfare of children under 18 years of age as they constitute a significant percentage of the population, the second official added. “Efforts are being made to map educational outlays, and provisions for welfare of the girl child and child protection.”
“The government has already instructed all ministries and departments to coordinate with the ministry of women and child development for “compulsory allocations” of the gender and child budgeting,” he said.
Capital expenditure (capex) and infrastructure development will continue to be one of the major growth engines in 2022-23, and these will be based on ₹111 lakh crore National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) and the ‘PM Gati Shakti’, the integrated digital platform for infrastructure development that has a potential to reduce logistics costs from 13% to 8% in the next four-five years, the officials said.
While reviewing capital expenditures of ministries of highways, petroleum and steel on Tuesday, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman suggested they front-load capex in the third quarter of FY22 and the first half of FY23. An official statement quoting the FM on Tuesday said “infrastructure projects are a priority” for the government.
Finance minister Sitharaman in her Budget speech on February 1 announced a ₹5.54 lakh crore capital expenditure plan in the current financial year. In August, she also unveiled a ₹6 lakh crore plan to monetise the central government’s brownfield assets in four years, which is coterminous with the ₹111 lakh crore NIP.