Sitharaman: Budget prepared keeping in mind external challenges also: Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman – Times of India

HYDERABAD: The Union Budget 2023-24 has been prepared keeping growth in focus and also external economic challenges such as fuel prices, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Thursday.
In an interactive session on the Budget, she said the focus was on the common man and weaker sections and to ensure that their businesses are supported, their education is supported, the opportunities which are available for them to skill themselves are also given enough provision.
“The priority is to keep the growth momentum as it is and also to make sure that the further support measures for sustaining growth…And be conscious of the fact that challenges which are extraneous to India. External challenges will have to be kept in mind. We should be ready for any unpredictable events from outside of our border,” she said when asked what the priorities were when the budget was given a final shape.
“Economic challenges which are even today prevalent in terms of fuel and fertilisers. Fertilisers are coming down a bit, but even then it is a factor beyond us. These are the primary concerns,” she further said.
Sitharaman said the budget was prepared keeping in view every section of the society including SC, ST, OBC and other backward classes.
Replying to a query on the allegation that the Centre is curbing states finances by limiting their borrowings, Sitharaman said as per Article 293 of the Constitution Centre is authorised to look at States’ borrowings.
She further said it is the practice over several years that the Centre monitors State borrowings.
“There is a well established, over the last 70 years practice of the Constitution that the Centre looks at the borrowing limits of the states. It is not new. It has not come in 2014. It is not something which we have changed to the disadvantage of the states,” she said.
To another query on the Centre levying cess and not sharing the same with the states, she said during several discussions in Parliament it was informed that much more than what was collected has been dispatched to the states.
According to her, there is greater appetite in the states as far as the 50-year interest free loans was concerned, particularly in North-Eastern states.
On the Income Tax slabs in the new regime, she said it is the individual who should decide where to invest and the government has nothing to do with it.
The FM said the employment guarantee scheme (MNREGA) is a demand driven scheme and accordingly funds are allotted. However, since 2016, the Centre has always spent more than the budgetary estimates.
With regard to Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s criticism that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious target of India becoming a $5 trillion economy was “a joke and silly,” Sitharaman said “CM garu don’t joke and let’s all speak about it with responsibility.”
She alleged that Telangana’s debt burden has increased from Rs 60,000 crore in 2014 to over Rs 3 lakh crore now.

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