By presenting the first budget of 45-day old Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has made the five-year-long vision of the ruling dispensation quite clear. Jaitley has started the budget speech by saying that the kind of economy he got from the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government speaks a lot of the current state of the nation’s poor financial condition. He also said that a major reason behind this was the UPA’s inability to take decision. He can’t be disagreed with but the new government faces a stiff challenge of standing tall on the expectations of the people, especially those belong to poor and middle-class section. These sections have played a vital role in propelling the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to power at the Centre. Bringing down the rate of inflation, giving employment a boost, strengthening the core and fundamental structure and initiating reforms in the modus operandi of governmental machinery are some of the key agendas of Modi government. Jaitley was right when he said that it won’t be apt to expect him to solve all problems in the first budget itself. For, a country, as vast and diverse as India, a government, which is 45-day old would find it difficult to prepare the outline of development for five years. Still, Jaitley made every possible attempt to execute this difficult job. His speech gave out an impression that qualitative changes are being made in the working style of different ministries and implementing governmental policies is one of his priorities. For that, out of whatever suggestions he received, he included around 150 of them a part of his budget speech. Not only this, he also set aside funds to bring reforms in the system and presented a sketch of new programmes.

The budget also made it clear that Modi government, as of now, is not moving towards a major change of sorts and its motive is to bring reforms in the system and strengthen the administrative efficiency. The government is looking quite committed towards implementing every small and big policy from an all new point of view. By bringing in 49 percent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in insurance and defence sector and by showing its dedication to the issue of Goods and Services Tax (GST), the government has shown boldness towards bringing reforms in economic front and provided hints of sorts towards its future scheme of things. The government is stressing on bringing more activeness in the decision making process by the bureaucracy and the major reason behind this is that the previous government was often bogged down by lack of decisiveness and due to this, one after another decision kept on getting stalled. In such a scenario, it’s obvious that the entire attention of Modi government has instilled faith and confidence in the bureaucrats and bringing in a new lease of life to the economy by providing a new sheen to the old programmes. During his budget speech, the Finance Minister also assured the nation that in the coming times, the growth rate will touch seven-eight percent and it would be successful in bringing down the rate of inflation.

Among those sectors which await a new political outlook are education and health. The people also want to know how much money will be spent in each and every item. However, the problem associated with this is that both these issues are related to states. The Centre can’t do anything more than allocating funds and deciding a policy-based direction. Just like health and education, increasing productivity in farming sector and reducing the burden of subsidies is also a challenge. No concrete step was taken in order to cut down on subsidies in the budget. The apprehension of monsoon staying on the weaker side this year added to the problems of farmers. Though the issue of water harvesting was raised in the budget, it needs to be seen what steps the government will take in order to prevent wastage of water and preserve it. The ambitious plan of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to interlink rivers has given a new emphasis again but this standalone plan can’t solve the problem of potable water. Undoubtedly, the nation faces a major challenge in the form of increasing pollution the rivers. The government is also committed to keep Ganga clean and it has also announced a new scheme of Rs 2,000 crore to cleanse its water but what about other rivers? Almost every river across the country is polluted and a massive amount of money is required in order to clean them. From where the money will come and who will shoulder the responsibility to cleanse them? The answer to this question is yet to come.

In order to strengthen the economic structure of any nation, its financial condition needs to be improved. The new government is looking determined to bring improvement in the financial condition of the government. To improve banks’ condition, it has talked of exploring the option of coming up with capital investment. Besides, a few reforms have also been brought in taxes. To generate employment, the government has stressed on the importance of micro, small and medium enterprises. This is indeed an appreciable thought on the government’s part. In this very category, the industries are passing through a lean phase. Several of them are in a dilapidated state due to lack of capital as well as technology and infrastructure. To make these industries meet the challenges properly, the government has constituted a committee. It would have been better had some reforms been brought in the condition of labours as well since archaic labour laws are a major challenge for every industry. Without overhaul labour laws, the industrial sector can’t expect to solve its problems. It needs to be kept in mind that if micro, small and medium enterprises register improvement in their condition, the problems of unemployment will solve to a considerable extent.

If Arun Jaitley’s budget is not presenting a far-fetched vision, the main reason behind this is the government giving priority to bring immediate reforms in the current state of affairs. In India, billions of rupees are spent in the government-sponsored programmes but the people never derive any benefit out of that. If some success of sorts can be achieved in terms of administrative reforms, better results can be seen against minimal expenses and Prime Minster Narendra Modi faces the challenge to do something like this. The Finance Minister has touched almost every sector during his budget speech. In order to address the problems being faced by the vista of sectors, he also spoke of coming up with committees and commissions and preparing new policies. This gives a confidence that the process of solving problems is gaining momentum but things will materialize only when things will fall into its proper place. And for this, every day, something should be done or happen which can add to the nation’s economic might. The Opposition leaders and some economists have termed the budget as populist one but while saying so, they forget that this government is being led by none other than Narendra Modi, who already gave the world numerous glimpses of his administrative efficiency and leadership skill. The pledge taken by him to make a better India has also infused confidence among the people. The new government’s biggest strength is the common man’s trust on Modi and for now, this bond of trust appears unbreakable.

(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on July 13, 2014 translated by the English editorial. The author is the Group Editor of Dainik Jagran)