In pursuit of making Atmanirbhar Bharat, Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur said the government will focus on infrastructure development in rural and urban areas as it will have a multiplier effect on the economy.
One of the pillars for making India a self-reliant country is by building world-class infrastructure as was referred by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the nation earlier this month, he said.
A government task force last month had projected total required investment of a whopping Rs 111 lakh crore in infra projects over five years to augment infrastructure and create jobs in the country.
To keep the wheels of economy running, he said, the government is also ensuring adequate liquidity in the hands of businesses in these trying times.
“The effort of the government will be towards rationalisation of its expenditure and to ramp up allocations for essentials during the current fiscal to deal with the challenges posed by the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic,” he told PTI in an interview.
For example, he said, the government recently increased allocation for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) to a historic high of Rs 1.01 lakh crore for the current fiscal.
As part of the Rs 20.97 lakh crore Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan package announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, a series of measures, including fund allocation of Rs 1 lakh crore for infrastructure development in the agriculture sector and raising allocation under MGNREGA, were taken.
“We are not cutting down our expenditure .we will rationalise it. We have made a historic allocation of Rs 1.01 lakh crore for MGNREGA keeping the exodus of migrant workers to their home state in our mind,” the minister said.
“I don’t call them migrant labour, I will say guest workers. When they have gone back to their home state, we are providing them avenues, so that they can get resume work back home,” he said.
Thakur also pointed that it will result in creation of a larger number of durable and livelihood assets and also boost the rural economy through higher production.
It will help generate nearly 300 crore person days in total during this financial year, he said, adding that it is historic and even the previous government could not spend more than Rs 30,000 crore.
Elaborating further Thakur said, “if we save some through rationalisation, we can invest further into the infrastructure side which will have a ripple down effect to generate more demand into other industries also”.
“It will lead to better utilisation of funds at the same time, rationalisation of centrally sponsored schemes,” he added.
Asked if the government is considering monetisation of debt as an option to shore up its resources, he said, “We are just in the second month of this fiscal year. It will be too early to say anything”.
“Nobody knows how this COVID-19 pandemic pans out, what shape it is going to take, what kind of impact it will have on the Indian economy, and globally also no country knows today what lies three months later,” the minister noted.
As of now, he said, the government has increased the borrowing limit from Rs 7.8 crore to Rs 12 lakh crore, which is Rs 4.2 lakh crore higher than the Budget estimate.
“All these things could be taken into consideration, either at the revised estimate stage or maybe after every couple of months. We are willing to take more steps in the interest of the public and the country as the situation arises,” he added.