India: Youth and the Budget 2022!

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By Devika Kapoor, Copy Edited by Adam Rizvi, TIO: What does the Youth think of Budget 2022? Has the budget managed to allocate resources judiciously for the welfare of all? Ambiguous questions like these have no one answer, the youth have an equivocal opinion when it comes to the budget.

Supporters praised FM Nirmala Sitharaman for her brevity after the economy
was shaken by the pandemic. She chose to allocate a larger proportion of the
budget towards capital expenditure when everyone was expecting her to
appease the distress of the poor by giving them jobs and income. She focused on the multiplier effect which will create more employment as a result of
investment in infrastructure. As a result of an increase in demand for labour,
wages will go up for existing employees. This strategy is aimed at putting the
economy on a firm recovery track.

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However, opponents point out that such an approach has a two-fold
disadvantage. Firstly, funds from MNREGA, and food allocation have been
reduced by Rs 1.05 lakh crores to free funds for investment in road and
railways which will exacerbate the issue of solving the problem for the poor.

Secondly, the government vision can be termed as myopic. Although the
immediate step taken to generate employment is viable but isn’t the
government just pushing more and more people towards the labour class and
not focusing on taking steps to uplift the poor upwards in the pyramid.

Miscalculations like these would further increase the inequality between the
rich and the poor.

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The brighter side is that the government took measures for improving not just
the hard infrastructure but even the soft infrastructure by relying on
improvement in digital technologies to support ease of doing business. This
will come as a relief to foreign investors who are querulous because of the high
costs of doing business. It will also attract foreign direct investment in India.

The downside is that the government didn’t reduce import tariffs and hence
exports are not expected to rise substantially which will put the job intensive
MSME sector at a disadvantage and hence take a toll on the creation of jobs.

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The budget for education has seen a meagre increase of only 11 per cent which
has failed to account for the learning losses of the past two years. Although the
push in digital learning in this budget aspires to give impetus to the betterment of education, it is questionable for a developing country like India where the digital divide is huge. Moreover, the Budget is not in line with the National Education Policy that gave a ray of hope for reform in the education sector. The NEP espoused for education to be a 6 per cent of the budget expenditure but the 2022 budget saw education to be only 2 per cent of the expenditure of the budget. The government claims to be focusing on digitalisation to make education accessible to all but even then, the funds directed towards the digital e-learning programmes have been reduced.

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The answer is clear if the government wants to bring an actual change it has to
focus on implementing it better. Moreover, the focus of government at the
cost of education is alarming because it might just put our economy in
reverse gear. It is rightly said that when things go downhill the effect of it
accrues to the weakest section the most and the effects in pandemic were no
different. The women were one of the most affected as their health, survival,
and workforce participation were on shaky ground. Although the government
increased the expenditure allocated to the gender budget by 11.5 per cent
from 2021 however the proportion of total expenditure decreased from 4.4 to
4.3 per cent which is disappointing.

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We are moving ahead in time but stagnated when it comes to taking a
a different path to solving problems like gender inequality or quality education. Can it even be termed as actual progress even if our GDP goes up? Some people gave a snide remark stating that the deficiencies in the budget might be fortuitous because they might be saving the baits for the 2023 budget which will attract voters for the 2024 elections.

Compiled and Curated by Humra Kidwai.

 

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