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How interim budget paves the way for India’s infrastructural renaissance

Building infrastructure. PTI

The recent interim budget, though bereft of major surprises, serves as a strategic precursor for the imminent general budget after the Lok Sabha elections. The finance minister’s succinct address, centred around a vote on account, resonated with the continued emphasis on visible outcomes, primarily in the realm of infrastructure.

A standout feature of the budget was the substantial 11.11 per cent boost in infrastructure expenditure, totalling ₹11,11,111 crore, constituting 3.4 per cent of the GDP. While this marks a contrast from the previous year’s 34 per cent surge, the moderation aligns with fiscal responsibility targets, specifically containing the fiscal deficit within the 4.5 per cent threshold by 2025-26.

Under the banner of the PM Gati Shakti initiative, three major economic railway corridor programs were introduced, spanning energy, mineral, and cement corridors, port connectivity corridors, and high-traffic density corridors. With a capital expenditure allocation of ₹2.55 lakh crore for the railway ministry, a modest 6.1% increase from the previous budget, these initiatives signify a strategic push towards multi-modal connectivity.

However, the successful implementation of these corridors hinges on timely completion and seamless integration with regional and local development plans. The primary objective, as outlined by the finance minister, is to enhance logistics efficiency and reduce costs, aligning with the broader vision of the railway as the lifeline of the country.

The energy, mineral, and cement transport corridors aim to facilitate the smooth movement of critical commodities, responding to immediate demands for energy and cement. Yet, amidst growing concerns over pollution and India’s commitment to net-zero emissions, a reassessment of the long-term demand for these resources becomes imperative.

The port connectivity corridors, designed to facilitate world-class infrastructure and attract investments, require active participation from the private sector. Incentivizing private investments is crucial for the optimistic growth projections to materialize and create a thriving economic ecosystem along these corridors.

The UDAN scheme and the burgeoning air ridership, coupled with developments in airport infrastructure, underscore the potential within the aviation sector. However, addressing challenges in the UDAN scheme’s execution and strategic auctioning of routes will be pivotal in maximizing its impact.

The increased allocation in the PM Awas Yojna, housing announcements for the middle class, conversion of bogies to Vande Bharat comfort levels, augmented e-bus initiatives, expanded allocations for metro rail, and Namo Bharat reflect a comprehensive approach towards urban development and public transport.

The budget, which defines GDP as Governance, Development, and Performance, sets the stage for effective and efficient implementation of announcements. As the government navigates a ‘Sweet Spot’ of assurance with the vote on account, the upcoming full budget may delve deeper into the BJP/NDA manifesto, aligning policies with the evolving needs of a dynamic nation.

In conclusion, the post-budget reflections on infrastructure signify a nuanced and forward-thinking approach. As the nation braces for transformative initiatives, the emphasis on multi-modal connectivity, sustainable resource utilisation and private sector collaboration holds the key to unlocking India’s infrastructural potential.

The author is founder, Hecta. Views expressed in the above piece are personal and solely that of the author. They do not necessarily reflect Firstpost’s views.

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