Budget 2023 Key Highlights: Here’s What Nirmala Sitharaman Has for You

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday announced big relief for taxpayers and a mega push for capital spending and infrastructure as she unveiled the government’s last Budget before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Let’s take a look at 10 key highlights from Budget 2023-24:

1. Budget for Amrit Kaal

The finance minister said this budget will lay the roadmap for the Amrit Kaal, which will include technology-driven growth and a knowledge-based economy.

“Our vision for the Amrit Kaal includes a technology-driven and knowledge-based economy, with strong public finances and a robust financial sector. To achieve this ‘janbhagidari’ through ‘sabka saath, sabka prayaas’ is essential,” she said.

2. Changes in new income tax regime

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the income tax rebate has been extended on income up to Rs 7 lakh under the new income tax regime.

“introduced in 2020, the new personal income tax regime with 6 income slabs, starting from Rs 2.5 Lakhs. I propose changing the tax structure in this regime by reducing the number of slabs to 5 and increasing the tax exemption limit to Rs 3 Lakhs,” she said.

The minister also proposed to make tax slabs more flexible under the new tax regime. “The new tax rates are 0 to Rs 3 lakhs – nil, Rs 3 to 6 lakhs – 5%, Rs 6 to 9 Lakhs – 10%, Rs 9 to 12 Lakhs – 15%, Rs 12 to 15 Lakhs – 20% and above 15 Lakhs – 30%, ” said Sitharaman.

3. Boost to capital investment

Investment and job creation continue to be the government’s top priority, as outlined by the finance minister in her Budget speech.

Sitharaman said capital investment outlay is being increased by 33 per cent to Rs 10 lakh crore, which would be 3.3 per cent of GDP.

She also announced that the provision for 50-year interest-free loans to state governments has been extended by another year. This will be done to spur investment in infrastructure and to incentivise them for complimentary policy actions, with enhanced outlay of Rs. 1.3 lakh crore.

4. Boost to agriculture

As expected earlier, the finance minister made several announcements to boost the overall agricultural sector, including providing affordable solutions for challenges faced by farmers. She announced an agriculture accelerator fund to “transform” the sector.

The agricultural credit target will be increased to Rs 20 lakh crore, with focus on animal husbandry, dairy and fisheries. “We will launch a new sub-scheme with targeted investment of Rs 6,000 crore to aid activities of fishermen, fish vendors and MSMSEs,” said Nirmala Sitharaman.

63,000 Primary Agricultural Credit Societies are being computerised with investment of Rs. 2,516 crores; model bylaws were formulated for PACS, national database is being prepared, with this, massive decentralised storage capacity to be set up, says Sitharaman.

5. PAN to become a common identifier

The Permanent Account Number (PAN) will be used as a common identifier for all digital systems of specified government agencies.

The KYC process will be simplified and a one-stop update of identity will be established through Digilocker service and Aadhaar. A system of ‘Unified Filing Process’ will be set-up to streamline the current process of duplication for multiple departments for ease of business.

6. Health education and skilling

The finance minister said 157 new nursing colleges will be established in co-location with the existing 157 medical colleges established since 2014. ICMR labs will be made available for research by public and private medical college faculty and private sector R&D teams, to encourage collaborative research and innovation.

She also announced a new programme to promote research and innovation in pharmaceuticals. The government will also encourage industry to invest in research and development in specific priority areas.

A National Digital Library for Children and Adolescents will be set up for ensuring that quality books across languages, geographies and genres are made available to kids. States will also set up physical libraries and provide infra to access the library resources.

The National Child Trust, Children’s Book Trust and others will be encouraged to ‘provide and replenish non-curricular titles’ in regional languages and English, to these libraries.

Also announced, a collaboration with NGOs working to promote literacy.

7. Railways outlay at Rs 2.40 lakh crore

Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday announced a total capital outlay of Rs 2.4 lakh crore for Railways in the Budget 2023-24, the highest-ever allocation since 2013-14.

“This is about nine times the outlay made in 2013-14,” she said during the Budget Speech. She added that a total of 100 critical transport infrastructure projects have been identified for implementation.

8. Outlay for PM Awas Yojana increased

The outlay for the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, an initiative by the Government of India in which affordable housing will be provided for the urban poor, is being enhanced by 66 per cent to over Rs 79,000 crore.

9. Fiscal deficit target for FY24

The fiscal deficit target for FY24 has been reduced to 5.9 per cent of the GDP, compared to 6.4 per cent for FY23. The finance minister said, “I reiterate my intention to bring the fiscal deficit below 4.5 per cent of GDP by 2025-26.”

10. Push for tourism

Promotion of tourism to be taken up in mission mode with active participation of states and PPPs, says the Finance Minister. The government will launch the Dekho Apna Desh initiative to promote domestic tourism.

50 tourist destinations will be selected through challenge mode to be developed as a whole package for domestic and international tourism, the FM said.

States will be encouraged to set up a ‘Unity Mall’ in the state capital or the most popular tourist destination in the state for the promotion and sale of ‘One District, One product’ and GI products and other handicrafts, she said.

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