“The priority was to keep the growth momentum and also to make sure further support measures for sustaining growth (were taken)…,” Sitharaman said at an interactive session in Hyderabad. “(We were also) conscious of the challenges which are extraneous to India. We should be ready for any unpredictable events from outside of our border.”
The minister said fuel and fertiliser prices continue to be among the key challenges for the economy. “Fertiliser prices (global) are coming down a bit, but even then it is a factor beyond our control,” she said.
Fertiliser prices shot up in the wake of the Ukraine war and the government was forced to shell out an estimated ₹2.25 lakh crore in fertiliser subsidy in FY23, way above the budgeted ₹1.05 lakh crore, to soften the blow for farmers. For FY24, the fertiliser subsidy outlay is pegged at ₹1.75 lakh crore, given the somewhat moderation in prices.
The new income-tax regime, the minister indicated, offers greater flexibility to people to put their money where they want to, instead of inducing them to invest in certain channels by offering exemptions.
The budget’s focus was on common man and weaker sections. The government wanted to ensure that their businesses are supported and there are adequate provisions in the budget to provide for skilling.
Overseas sovereign bonds
The government has no proposal to float foreign currency-denominated government securities, as such issuances come with a great deal of external risks along with the obvious benefits, finance secretary TV Somanathan said.