Newly Elected Indian Government Reveals Reform Budget

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Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced India's new budget plan on Thursday, which aims to increase growth from 5 percent to 7-8 percent in the next three years.

The announcement marks one of the first significant economic prescriptions from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, who came into power in May with the most decisive electoral victory in three decades. 

"We shall leave no stone unturned in creating a vibrant and strong India," Jaitley told reporters ahead of presenting the the much anticipated budget on Thursday. 

The highlights of the plan includes increased spending on infrastructure projects, lifting the cap on foreign investments, cutting government debt and job creation. Jaitely indicated that the government would reduce spending by overhauling subsidies on food, fuel, and fertilizer, but withheld specifics on the size and scope of the cuts. He also plans to reduce the national budget deficit to the previous administration's goal of 4.1 percent of gross domestic product by the end of the year. 

Prime Minister Modi campaigned on the promise to cut the populist subsidies, which have increased the budget deficit and led to the lowest growth rates in years. Some were disappointed that the budget didn't go farther in tackling runaway inflation, spurring economic growth and cutting government programs. 

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"There was a sense that this budget would be an opportunity for the government to break away from the principles, the world views of the previous government," Jahangir Aziz, head of Asian emerging markets for JP Morgan Chase told the Associated Press. "It did not do that."  

Many are criticizing the lack of specifics on the size and scope of the coming cuts to address the nearly $40 billion the country spends on government food subsidies, which Jaitley has long argued are slowly sinking the world's third largest economy. Meanwhile, the announcement sent the Indian rupee falling 0.7 percent in value against the U.S. dollar, an early indication that the budget failed to go far enough in addressing the debt crisis threatening India's credit rating and future investments. 

"This budget is high on rhetoric and low on delivery," Manish Tiwari, a senior leader in the opposition Congress party, which was defeated in May this year told CNN.  "It's not going to enthuse investors. Nor will it mitigate the woes of the poor."

The Finance Minster's growth agenda includes an increase in the cap on foreign investment in the defense and insurance sectors from 26 percent to 49 percent, a goods and services tax (GST), a special committee to review retrospective tax claims, and a thorough analysis of the central bank's monetary policy to address rising inflation. 

"We cannot leave behind a legacy of debt for future generations," Jaitely said.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.