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Budget 2014: Breaking Good

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THE first budget presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitely will be evaluated on many grounds and by many experts in the next few days, on inflation, infrastructure and investment parameters. But wp and sustainability professionals will certainly have a different outlook for this budget.

Usually, budget announcements have direct or indirect effects on most socio-economic concerns. This budget contained nothing directly related to wp, except for the inclusion of Slum Redevelopment into the wp ambit, a development that was earlier announced in the last notification from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.

Arun Jaitly budgFor several days, The wp Journal has been reporting on the strong demand for the mandatory wp spend to be made tax-deductible, and some relief on the accountability of independent directors on the wp committee of companies. But the FM preferred not to touch it and leave it to his colleague MoS for Corporate Affairs Nirmala Sitaramn to take it up in due course. As per reports, the MCA has already identified 80 issues on which a fresh Q&A is expected to be released soon.

So what was there in this budget for wp and sustainability professionals?

For the first time it looks like that the Government is seen to be serious and committed on sustainability issues. Several announcements made in Budget 2014 reflect this:

  • New and renewable energy gets high priority, ultra-modern power projects to be taken up in Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Ladakh with Rs 500 crore budgetary allocation
  • National Adaption Fund for climate change to be set up with Rs 100 crore allocation
  • Urban renewal will address drinking water, use of recycled water, solid waste management, digital connectivity
  • Rs 2037 crore set aside for ’Namami Ganga’, an integrated Ganga Development Project
  • Clean energy cess increased from Rs 50/tonne to Rs 100/tonne
  • Major plans to generate solar power and wind power. Also, solar panels to get cheaperArun Jaitly Budget
  • 5 model Rural Health Research Centers to be set up for rural health issues
  • Rs 100 crore set aside for development of organic farming in north-east region
  • Rs 500 crore set aside for National Rural Internet and Technology Mission
  • Rs 100 crore set aside for community radio centres, the establishment of 600 new ones, with the existing ones to be supported
  • Mission to incentivise low-cost housing, Rs 400 crore announced
  • Additionally, a special focus on the North-East and Himalayan regions will empower those who have been neglected till date.

No doubt many of these projects will have to be studied in detail and environmental and sustainability experts will have to put checks and balances in place for all of them. But the clear focus on sustainability issues is a sign of the government machinery ‘breaking good’ in setting a fresh agenda – one that looks at long-term gains, inclusive growth, and a real chance to put something other than stock market sentiment on the discussion table in the days to come.