Manufacturing Zones (NIMZs). Three more economic corridors are underway, which should help boost the manufacturing sector and exports.
We were also happy to note the stress on skill development. The finance minister’s speech mentioned the progress made in certified skills, where the CII too has played a part. The target is to skill 500 million people by 2022, and the additional allocation under this head will prove a boost.
However, we would have liked skill development to be linked with the MGNREGA to achieve the challenging target.
The 10-point agenda for the future indicates the areas the next government would need to address urgently. Fiscal consolidation would have to remain at the top in order to make available investible resources to industry and to contain inflation. The commitment to attracting foreign funds was welcome, as India needs to evolve into a destination for overseas investors. The stress on infrastructure, with private-sector participation, as also the rationalisation of import duties to promote manufacturing, are prudent intentions. There is no alternative to strengthening the manufacturing sector to create the millions of jobs that will be required by India’s growing working-age population. In this regard, urbanisation and skill development are rightly mentioned as two major challenges. The government would need to develop long-term strategic plans to leverage the opportunities arising out of these areas, particularly in creating smart new cities along the proposed NIMZs.
A noteworthy point was the intent to expand Aadhaar as a platform for delivery of direct transfers. We hope the next government will increasingly shift to Aadhaar to target subsidies better, reduce wastage and lower subsidy outlay.
Industry could not have expected more from an interim budget. The Vote on Account sets a solid foundation for the next government’s finances.
The writer is director general, CII