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    Budget 2022: Disappointment for social sector

    AgricultureBudget 2022: Disappointment for social sector
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    Budget 2022: Disappointment for social sector

    The total union budget expenditure as a proportion of the GDP has declined to 15.3 per cent in 2021-22 from 16.2 per cent in 2022-23. Such a drop is, by default, accompanied by a negative impact on social and economic sector spending.

    By Jawed A Khan

    The economic survey projects real gross domestic product (GDP) to grow by 8 to 8.5 per cent in 2022-23.  Union Budget 2022-23 was presented in the wake of rising unemployment, high inflation, low consumption demand and growing inequality in the country.

    However, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman did not mention a single word regarding these pressing problems the country is facing in her budget speech. She said that this budget will provide impetus to long-term growth through a range of priorities: the PM GatiShakti, inclusive development, productivity enhancement and investment, sunrise opportunities, energy transition and climate action and financing of investments with sab ka paryas.

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    Despite these claim, the finance minister has not mentioned any step to double the farm income in the budget. In fact, agriculture and allied activates which support the bulk of population has seen a marginal increase of just two per cent in this budget. Yet, the share of the agriculture budget in the total budget allocation has gone down from 4.26 per cent in 2021-22 to 3.84 per cent in 2022-23.

    How can we ignore MGNREGA while speaking of the economic life in the countryside? The budget allocation for the flagship rural employment guarantee scheme has seen a dip of 25 per cent in this budget from the revised estimates of 2021-22. The allocation declined to Rs. 73,000 crores from Rs 98,000 crores.  Besides, a pending wage of Rs 21,000 crore continues to be a matter of concern. Higher allocation could have boosted consumption demand and could have raised employment opportunities in rural areas. This was especially needed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainties of employment in the coming year.

    Pompous words but little money

    Similar trends have been observed in the budget’s allocations for other social sectors as well. The budgets for education, health and investments for improving the lives of the marginalised sections of society like schedule castes, tribal communities, religious minorities, women, children and persons with disabilities have been similarly impacted.

    A look at other social sectors shows a similar trend of pompous words in a budget speech but with little budgetary outlay to support these. For instance, in terms of the universalisation of quality education, the One class One TV channel programme is to be expanded to 200 television channels. But the question remains, how does the budget propose to achieve this.

    In the same breath, several announcements were made under the health budget, like the national digital health ecosystem, national tele-mental health programme, integrated security architecture: mission shakti, mission vatsalya, saksham anganwadi, and poshan 2.0. (Saksham Anganwadi will lead to the upgrading of two lakh anganwadis). However, these announcements are not backed by adequate budgetary provision.

    Initiatives for inclusive welfare in budget 2022-23

    Har Ghar, Nal Se Jal: 3.8 crore households to be covered in 2022-23

    PM-DevINE: To fund infrastructure and social development based on felt needs of the North East

    Aspirational Blocks Programme: For development of lagging blocks of aspirational districts

    Vibrant Villages Programme: Targeting development of villages on the Northern Border left out from the development gains

    Digital Banking by Post Offices: 100 per cent of post offices to come on the core banking system

    Digital Payments: Scheduled Commercial Banks to set up 75 Digital Banking Units in 75 districts

    Need to invest in children

    The total union budget expenditure as a proportion of the GDP has declined to 15.3 per cent in 2021-22 from 16.2 per cent in 2022-23. Such a drop is, by default, accompanied by a negative impact on social and economic sector spending.

    The mid-day meal scheme, we are now told, has been renamed as PM poshan shakti nirman with reduced allocation of Rs 10,233 crore from last year’s allocation of Rs 11,500 crore. During the pandemic, it will affect the child retention rate as well as nutrition. India ranked 101 out of 116 countries in the global hunger index – a score calculated on the basis of important nutrition, especially child nutrition figures provided by the government of India.

    There is, however, a slight improvement in the school education budget at Rs 63.499 crores in 2022-23. This is up from last year’s budget of Rs 54,873 crore, even if it is a mere six per cent of nominal increase compared to the budget estimates for 2021-22. Let us not forget that India’s low spending on education is an important factor that leads to India’s a poor human development index (HDI) ranking at 131 out of 189 countries.

     

    Jawed A Khan is with the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability

    Image: Hippopx licensed to use under Creative Commons Zero – CC0

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