As the Finance Minister rises to deliver her speech on Budget day, I will invoke the goddess Lakshmi, the bestower of wealth, prosperity and abundance to give something to everyone and shower her blessings in people’s lives. There couldn’t be a better time than now to make a real difference as all of us straddle our paths in an economy battered by the pandemic that has left many people without jobs and businesses struggling, some to survive and some for growth.
What can be done to fix the damage of gargantuan proportions, one that is immediate and also have a positive effect on the economy over the longer term? For that, it is only fair to draw up the various constituents that move the wheels of the economy- the demographic health and economic well-being, enterprise and business, markets and financial institutions, global trade and sustainability.
Demographic Health and Economic Well-being
The immediate ask is money in the hands of people. With nearly 140 crore people and about 58 percent involved in agriculture as their primary source of livelihood, this constituency is a big buyer and a large consumption market. While the farm sector was the only one to post growth in the June quarter when all other sectors were in the red and continues to perform well, it lacks the heft to pull the other sectors and the optimism may be premature as it does not address the issue of productivity and falling prices. On the other hand, India will need to create 90 million jobs from now till 2030 to absorb 30 million who could move from farm to non-farm sector. It would be prudent to then infuse money in bolstering infrastructure, skill development and manufacturing, all of which is expected to create jobs. Distribution of cash is a much-needed, albeit temporary, solution to those who have been affected most but not a panacea for long term economic prosperity.