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Indian Budget 2003-2004

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Indian Budget 2003-2004
Speech of Shri Yashwant Sinha
Minister of Finance

  1. I am greatly honoured to present the sixth successive budget of the Government of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), under the premiership of Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee.

  2. I wish to place on record high appreciation of my distinguished predecessor, Shri Yashwant Sinha, who so ably steered the country’s finances in the earlier budgetary exercises. That has made my task so much easier today.

  1. At the core of our economic endeavour and management of the country’s finances are the interests of our citizens; all this effort is for their total well being. That is our central objective, towards which the NDA government has a non-negotiable commitment. Through Budget 2003-2004, the Government, therefore, addresses the following five objectives, as ‘Panch Priorities’, for our citizens and for the economic security of our country, though these are not listed in any hierarchial order of importance:

  1. poverty eradication; addressing the ‘life time concerns’ of our citizens, covering health, housing, education and employment;

  2. infrastructure development;

  3. fiscal consolidation through tax reforms and progressive elimination of budgetary drags, including reform of the additional excise duty, introduction of service tax, and introduction of Value Added Tax (VAT) from April 1, 2003 at the State level.

  4. agriculture and related aspects including irrigation; and

  5. enhancing manufacturing sector efficiency, including promotion of exports and further acceleration of the reform process.

  1. Permit me to share the conceptual underpinning of these ‘panch priorities’. Let us, to start with readily acknowledge that the essential entrepreneurial character and the creative genius of our citizens is our greatest asset. This energy has to be released. For that, and for converting the liability of want into the asset of ability, eradication of poverty is crucial; that is the moral and economic issue of our times. Too often it is observed that budgetary exercises float over the wide mass of India, relating only to a few. This is not so here. And that is why a closely interrelated concern is renewed progress on the front of agriculture; our nation’s life blood. A second revolution, to follow the earlier Green Revolution is the vital need of today.

  2. But neither in agriculture, nor in industry, shall we be able to attain our objective, if infrastructure, both physical and social, is not rapidly and efficiently developed. For this, private and public interest must combine so as to generate maximum social welfare. Upon these foundations, and through encouraging specific manufacturing sectors, particularly activities where knowledge is industry, we will enhance growth, improve incomes, generate employment and promote exports. For our growth to be sustained, fiscal consolidation is the basis; it is the central pillar. Government has to totally eliminate budgetary drags, and be rid of the self-laid traps; they retard both the pace and the robustness of our growth. What is needed is a continuous and self-reliant progression of accelerating, all round growth, with a wider distributive spread of national wealth and greater spending power in the hands of all our citizens. We have to recognise the need to address a reduction of not just our social but economic inequalities, too. This cannot be postponed. That is why reforms are so critical. And, our reform agenda must not be held hostage; either to yesterday’s debates, or to subjective and selective interpretations of it. This is a collective need, for the nation’s growth, which all of us have to address together.

  3. Mr. Speaker, there is palpable impatience in the country for progress and growth. The nation can not afford the luxury of prolonged periods of reflection, or a leisurely implementation schedule. The world will otherwise pass us by. Beyond deregulation, it is more and ever more de-bureaucratisation that is needed, as much of systems as of the mind. Of course, institutions matter, correct design and application of rules, too, but all in the service of our national objectives; not either as obtuse abstractions or as partisan goals. The core need in the country is of releasing national creativity. The Budget 2003-2004, of the NDA Government endeavours to do just that. This is our economic and social compact.


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