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Posted at: Jan 22, 2018, 12:58 AM; last updated: Jan 22, 2018, 12:58 AM (IST)

Growth with a human face

Shobana Kamineni

WITH global growth conditions improving, India has a real chance to accelerate its development agenda and foster inclusive growth. The Budget can be a key instrument for stressing policies in education, healthcare, rural economy and infrastructure.

In education, while enrollment ratios in secondary education have gone up, the poor quality of teaching has left youngsters with inadequate skills. It is imperative for the Budget to accentuate better teaching and technology infusion in schools by ramping up education expenditure. A technology fund should also be set up to prepare our youth for the future. Further, we need to go from skills to apprenticeship, where the right training for industry is provided. 

The National Health Policy has stressed on quality and affordable healthcare with a promise to raise spending to 2.5 per cent of the GDP in three years. The private sector is involved in three non-communicable disease treatments in district hospitals and this can be expanded with appropriate policy intervention. Innovative use of digital and mobile technology could lower overall healthcare costs, and the Budget 2018-19 can take a step to strengthen this model with a special technology fund. 

Inclusive growth will depend on improving incomes in the rural economy. Irrigation, cold storage and warehousing, rural roads, and other infrastructure facilities deserve high attention in the Budget as they create new opportunities for farmers. Links to food processing should be strengthened through policies enabling contract farming and land leasing to companies without affecting ownership rights of farmers. 

On infrastructure, the power sector emerges as a key bottleneck. There is need for setting up a national power distribution company to develop a single market for power, and also picking up stranded power assets which are not covered by distribution companies. In other sectors, greater clarity is required on public-private partnership models. 

Finally, an impetus to industry investment is the need of the hour. Industry feels there is a clear logic to push for a cut in corporate tax rates to 18-24 per cent with minimal exemptions so that Indian industry gains competitiveness in the global market. This will enable much higher job creation. To prepare for the emerging technology shift, it is important to encourage R&D and innovation through a seed fund of Rs 10,000 crores.

— The writer is CII President 

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