Mr. Speaker, Sir
It is my privilege to present the Budget for 2007-08.
I. A MID-TERM REPORT CARD ON THE ECONOMY
2. In November 2006, the UPA Government crossed the midpoint of its term of office. A midterm report card can now be presented. There are many pluses and a few minuses, and I shall deal with both candidly. The biggest plus is that the growth rate of GDP has improved from 7.5 per cent in 2004-05 to 9 per cent (Quick Estimate) in 2005-06 and, according to Advance Estimate, to 9.2 per cent in 2006-07. The average growth rate in the three years of the UPA Government is, therefore, 8.6 per cent. Thanks to this impressive performance, despite the poor start in 2002-03, the growth target set for the Tenth Plan of 8 per cent will be nearly achieved.
3. Manufacturing is the main driver of growth, and this augurs well for the future. In the three years of the UPA Government, the growth rate in manufacturing has accelerated from 8.7 per cent to 9.1 per cent and further to 11.3 per cent. The services sector continues to maintain impressive growth and has recorded, in the three years, a growth rate of 9.6 per cent, 9.8 per cent and 11.2 per cent respectively.
4. On the other hand, the agriculture sector has witnessed sharp ups and downs. Average growth during the Tenth Plan period is estimated at 2.3 per cent, which is below the desired level of 4 per cent a year. About 115 million families are classified as farming families. Furthermore, a country with a large population has to be nearly self-sufficient in essential food items; otherwise supply constraints could upset macro economic stability and growth prospects. Hence, agriculture must top the agenda of the policy makers and must hold the first charge on our resources. In a short while, I shall place before this House a number of proposals in this regard.
Income and Savings
5. To continue with the report card, per capita income in 2005-06, in real terms, increased by 7.4 per cent, and the savings rate has been estimated at 32.4 per cent and the investment rate at 33.8 per cent. Intuitively, I believe that these high rates have continued in the current year too.
6. The UPA Government has remained committed to economic reforms, fiscal prudence and monetary stability.
7. Revenues are buoyant for the third year in succession. We have garnered additional revenues and, as Honourable Members will notice presently, I have put these revenues to good use to promote inclusive growth, equity and social justice - goals that are at the core of the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP) and close to the hearts of the UPA, its Chairperson and the Prime Minister.
Outlook on Inflation
8. Until February 2, 2007, bank credit, year on year, had grown by 29.6 per cent. Money supply (M3) had expanded by 21.3 per cent. Foreign exchange reserves stood at US$ 180 billion. While these are concomitant features of high growth, it cannot be denied that these monetary trends have put pressure on prices. Global commodity prices have also exerted pressure on domestic prices. At the same time, supply constraints have emerged in some essential commodities such as wheat, pulses and edible oils. Consequently, average inflation in 2006-07 is estimated at between 5.2 and 5.4 per cent, which is higher than 4.4 per cent last year. I wish to reiterate Government's concern over inflation. Government has already taken a number of measures on the fiscal, monetary and supply sides to maintain price stability and, if required, will not hesitate to take more measures. When the UPA Government assumed office in 2004, the inflation graph was on the rise; but we succeeded in moderating inflation and we are confident that we can moderate the present inflationary trend too.
8A. Sir, I wish to report to the House that the Forward Markets Commission, which is the regulator, has informed the Government that effective today no new forward contracts will be launched in wheat and rice. The Standing Committee on Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has submitted a report on forward trading in commodities. Taking note of the report, the Government has decided to appoint an expert committee under the chairmanship of Prof. Abhijit Sen to go into the aspects of forward trading in essential commodities that impact the consumer. The Committee will be requested to submit its report in two months. Honourable Members are also aware that the Prime Minister has written to all Chief Ministers on February 21, 2007 on the need to strongly monitor activities that may amount to speculation, hoarding and profiteering, and requested them to put in place an appropriate mechanism to monitor prices and take corrective action.
While the Central Government will continue to take effective steps to moderate inflation, the Prime Minister has also emphasised the important role of State Governments in this regard.
II. BHARAT NIRMAN AND THE FLAGSHIP PROGRAMMES
9. Bharat Nirman remains the cornerstone of the Government's policy. I am glad to report that in the current financial year:
- Additional irrigation potential of 2,400,000 hectares, including 900,000 hectares under AIBP, will be created;
- Drinking water has been provided to 55,512 habitations until December 2006 against a target of 73,120 habitations;
- Until December 2006, 12,198 kilometres of rural roads have been completed. The separate window under RIDF will augment funds for the programme by Rs.4,000 crore a year;
- 783,000 rural houses have been constructed up to December 2006 and 914,000 houses are under construction, and the annual target of 1,500,000 houses is likely to be exceeded;
- 19,758 villages have been covered so far under the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana;
- 15,054 villages have been provided with a telephone against the target of 20,000 villages, and the balance will be covered by the end of the year;
Honourable Members will note that Bharat Nirman continues to make impressive progress.
10. The eight flagship programmes of the UPA Government will continue to receive high priority. Presently, I shall refer to these programmes in some detail.
III. HERALDING THE ELEVENTH FIVE YEAR PLAN
11. The year 2007-08 will mark the beginning of the Eleventh Plan. The declared objective is "Faster and More Inclusive Growth". I can state with confidence that, on the eve of the Plan, the economy is in a stronger position than ever before. It therefore behoves us to set higher goals. The Approach Paper to the Eleventh Plan states that the Plan "will aim at putting the economy on a sustainable growth trajectory with a growth rate of approximately 10 per cent by the end of its period." Among the other objectives of the Plan are growth of 4 per cent in the agriculture sector, faster employment creation, reducing disparities across regions and ensuring access to basic physical infrastructure as well as health and education services to all. I have kept these objectives in mind while allocating resources to various sectors.
Gross Budgetary Support
12. Notwithstanding some constraints, I propose to increase substantially the Gross Budgetary Support (GBS) for the Plan. In 2006-07, the GBS was fixed at Rs.172,728 crore and, of this, support to the Central Plan was Rs.131,284 crore. GBS for 2007-08 will be increased to Rs.205,100 crore. Out of this, the Central Plan will receive Rs.154,939 crore.
Allocations for Major Sectors
13. For Bharat Nirman, as against Rs.18,696 crore (including the NER component) in 2006-07, I propose to provide Rs.24,603 crore in 2007-08, which marks an increase of 31.6 per cent.
14. The education and health sectors will also receive substantial funds. In 2007-08, I propose to enhance the allocation for education by 34.2 per cent to Rs.32,352 crore and for health and family welfare by 21.9 per cent to Rs.15,291 crore.
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Mid-day Meal Scheme
15. In allocating resources, school education must have primacy. Hence, I propose to increase the allocation for school education by about 35 per cent from Rs.17,133 crore in 2006-07 to Rs.23,142 crore in 2007-08.
16. Out of this amount, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) will be provided Rs.10,671 crore. Further, I propose to increase the provision for strengthening teachers training institutions from Rs.162 crore to Rs.450 crore. Next year, we will appoint 200,000 more teachers and construct 500,000 more class rooms.
17. The Mid-day Meal Scheme will be provided Rs.7,324 crore next year. In addition to covering children in primary classes, beginning 2007-08, we propose to cover children in upper primary classes in 3,427 educationally backward blocks.
18. The transfer to Prarambhik Shiksha Kosh will increase from Rs.8,746 crore to Rs.10,393 crore.
19. As more students complete upper primary classes, it is necessary to increase access to secondary education. Schemes for this purpose are under formulation, and I propose to double the provision for secondary education from Rs.1,837 crore in 2006-07 to Rs.3,794 crore in 2007-08.
20. While the SSA has improved the enrolment ratio in schools to 96 per cent, the drop out ratio continues to be high. The critical year appears to be transition from class VIII to class IX. In order to arrest the drop out ratio and encourage students to continue their education beyond class VIII, I propose to introduce a National Means-cum-Merit Scholarship Scheme. Selection will be made through a national test from among students who have passed class VIII. Each student will be given Rs.6,000 per year for study in classes IX, X, XI and XII. I propose that 100,000 scholarships may be awarded every year. In order to fund this programme, I intend to create a corpus fund of Rs.750 crore this year, and add a like amount to the fund every year over the next three years. Accordingly, a sum of Rs.750 crore will be placed with the State Bank of India, and the yield from the fund will be used for awarding the scholarships.
Drinking Water and Sanitation
21. 55,512 habitations and 34,000 schools have been provided drinking water supply till December, 2006 under the Rajiv Gandhi Drinking Water Mission. More ambitious targets have been set for 2007-08 to deal with both non-coverage and slippage. I propose to enhance the allocation for the Mission from Rs.4,680 crore in 2006-07 to Rs.5,850 crore in 2007-08.
22. As regards the Total Sanitation Campaign, I propose to increase the provision from Rs.720 crore this year to Rs.954 crore next year.
Health Sector; National Rural Health Mission
23. In the second year of its implementation, the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) is on schedule to meet its timelines. The institutional integration of all the health schemes at the district and lower levels has been achieved. All districts in the country will complete preparation of District Health Action Plans by March 2007. The major emphasis will be on mother and child care and on the prevention and treatment of communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria. Through Monthly Health Days (MHD) organised at Anganwadi centres, convergence is sought to be achieved among various programmes such as immunization, ante natal care as well as nutrition and sanitation.
24. I am happy to report that 320,000 Associated Social Health Activists (ASHAs) have been recruited and over 200,000 have received orientation training. Besides, 90,000 link workers have been selected by the States. With trained ASHAs in place, I am confident there will be significant improvement in health care in rural areas. The Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Sidha and Homeopathy (AYUSH) systems are also being mainstreamed into the health delivery system at all levels. I propose to increase the allocation for NRHM from Rs.8,207 crore in 2006-07 to Rs.9,947 crore in 2007-08.
25. Government has brought HIV/AIDS out of the closet and promised bold and determined efforts to achieve zero-level growth of the disease. The epidemic will be deemed 'stabilised' if the prevalence rate is less than one per cent of the population. National Aids Control Programme (NACP)-III, starting in 2007-08 and building on NACP-I and NACP-II, will target the high risk groups in all the States. We will expand access to condoms and ensure universal access to blood screening and safe blood. More hospitals will provide treatment to prevent transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to child. Support will be given to the protocol on paediatric dosage developed by Indian doctors and launched in November 2006. For the year 2007-08, I propose to step up the provision for the AIDS control programme to Rs.969 crore.
26. Last year, I had expressed the hope that polio will be eliminated from the country by December 2007. However, there was an outbreak in western Uttar Pradesh in early 2006. The strategy for polio eradication has been revised. The number of polio rounds will be increased, monovalent vaccine will be introduced, and there will be intensive coverage in the 20 high risk districts of Uttar Pradesh and 10 districts of Bihar. The programme has been integrated into the NRHM. The ASHAs and the Anganwadi workers will visit every household and track every child for the immunization programme. To achieve the goal of eliminating polio, I propose to provide Rs.1,290 crore in 2007-08.
Integrated Child Development Services
27. In the second phase of expansion of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Government has sanctioned 173 ICDS projects, 107,274 Anganwadi centres and 25,961 mini-Anganwadi centres. Government is committed to expand the scheme in order to cover all habitations and settlements during the Eleventh Plan and to reach out to pregnant women, lactating mothers and all children below the age of six. I propose to increase the allocation for ICDS from Rs.4,087 crore in 2006-07 to Rs.4,761 crore in 2007-08.
National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme
28. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) was launched on February 2, 2006. The pace of implementation varies from State to State. Since NREGS is a demand-driven scheme carrying a legal guarantee of employment, the budget allocation would have to be supplemented according to need. I therefore propose to make an initial allocation of Rs.12,000 crore (including NER component) for NREGS. I am also happy to announce that NREGS will be expanded from the current level of 200 districts to 330 districts. In addition, I have provided Rs.2,800 crore for Sampoorna Gramin Rozgar Yojana (SGRY) for rural employment in the districts not covered by NREGS.
29. Swaranjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY) is intended to promote self-employment among the rural poor through Self Help Groups (SHG). I propose to strengthen this programme by increasing the allocation from Rs.1,200 crore in the current year to Rs.1,800 crore (including NER component) next year.
30. The issue of urban unemployment and poverty alleviation is equally critical. Hence, I propose to increase the allocation for Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rojgar Yojana from Rs.250 crore in 2006-07 to Rs.344 crore next year.
Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission
31. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) has evoked a positive response from State Governments. As on date, 538 projects with a total cost of Rs.23,950 crore have been sanctioned in sectors such as water supply, sanitation, transport, road and housing in many cities spread over several States. I propose to enhance the allocation from Rs.4,595 crore in 2006-07 to Rs.4,987 crore 2007-08.
Targeted Public Distribution System and Antyodaya Anna Yojana
32. The issue prices of food grains under the Public Distribution System (PDS) and for the beneficiaries of the Antyodaya Anna Yojana have been retained. A Plan scheme for evaluation, monitoring, management and strengthening of the targeted PDS will be implemented in 2007-08, and this will include computerisation of the PDS and an integrated information system in the Food Corporation of India.
Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
33. Continuing the practice that was started in 2005-06, a separate statement on the schemes for the welfare of Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) is placed in the Budget documents. The allocation in 2007-08 for SCs and STs has been substantially enhanced. In respect of schemes benefiting only SCs and STs, I have increased the allocation to Rs.3,271 crore. In respect of schemes with at least 20 per cent of the benefits earmarked for SCs and STs, I have increased the allocation to Rs.17,691 crore.
34. SC and ST students studying in M.Phil and PhD courses are supported by the Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship Programme. I propose to enhance the allocation from Rs.35 crore in 2006-07 to Rs.88 crore in 2007-08.
35. There is a post-matric scholarship programme for SC and ST students. I propose to increase the provision for these scholarships from Rs.440 crore in 2006-07 to Rs.611 crore in 2007-08. I also propose to make a separate provision of Rs.91 crore for similar scholarships to be awarded to students belonging to socially and educationally backward classes.
36. Last year, I made a modest contribution of Rs.16.47 crore to the equity of the National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation (NMDFC). Following the Sachar Committee report, NMDFC would be required to expand its reach and intensify its efforts. Hence, I propose to provide a further sum of Rs.63 crore to the share capital of NMDFC.
37. There are a number of districts with a concentration of minorities. I propose to make a provision of Rs.108 crore for a multi-sector development programme in these districts.
38. Three scholarship programmes are being implemented for students belonging to minority communities. I propose to make the following allocations:
Pre-matric scholarships Rs.72 crore
Post-matric scholarships Rs.90 crore
Merit-cum-Means scholarships at graduate and post-graduate levels Rs.48.60 crore
39. There is growing awareness of gender sensitivities of budgetary allocations. 50 ministries/departments have set up gender budgeting cells. For 2007-08, 27 ministries/departments and 5 Union Territories covering 33 demands for grants have contributed to a statement placed in the budget papers.