The Interim Budget announced on February 1 had a significant focus on growing the country’s economy.
The Finance Minister highlighted her vision for growing the country’s economy at the recent Vibrant Gujarat Summit. She said “It is possible that we will be the third largest economy by 2027–28, and our GDP will cross USD 5 trillion by that time. By 2047, it is a conservative estimate that we will reach at least USD 30 trillion in terms of the economy.”
In pursuit of creating a $30 trillion economy, it is imperative to prioritize not only economic growth but also ensure that development is inclusive and sustainable. It is of utmost importance to create a world where people from all sections of society have access to high-quality, affordable, market-led financial, economic and social services in the digital age.
According to the UNDP Report titled “Making Our Future: New Directions for Human Development in Asia and the Pacific,” India has made significant progress in increasing per capita income from USD 442 to USD 2,389 from 2000 to 2022. However, poverty alleviation remains a major challenge.
Numerous individuals find themselves highly susceptible to changes in economic circumstances, often teetering on the brink of poverty, of which women, interstate migrants, and informal workers are at greater risk.
Here are some strategies and focus areas for inclusive and sustainable growth:
Focus on climate change and food security in India
As the world grapples with environmental issues, India must find sustainable solutions to mitigate the impact of climate change. It is of the utmost importance to create climate-resilient agri-food systems that not only tackle the problem of hunger but are also sustainable and aligned on the path to net zero.
Climate change will have adverse effects on not only crops but also on forestry, fisheries, and livestock. India has to formulate policies and take necessary action to ensure that agricultural technology innovations undergo testing and expansion, aiming to enhance productivity at reduced expenses.
Agri-Stack is one such initiative by the government that has the potential to revolutionize the agricultural sector in India forever. AgriStack will facilitate more convenient access to affordable credit, superior farm inputs, tailored and specific guidance, and enhanced access to markets, which will also foster more agri-tech innovations that will benefit smallholder farmers.
As India has committed to becoming net zero by 2070, several green initiatives were announced in the Interim Budget 2024. These initiatives include the phased mandatory blending of compressed biogas (CBG) with compressed natural gas (CNG) for transport and piped natural gas (PNG) for domestic purposes, the expansion of the electric vehicle ecosystem, and promoting climate-resilient activities for the Blue Economy.
Creating a more enabling ecosystem to nurture skills in India
The Finance Minister made a statement during the Budget 2024 that “Skill India Mission has trained 1.4 crore youth and upskilled and reskilled 54 lakh youth.”
As many as 13 million young people join the workforce every year in India. There is a critical need to create an enabling environment for harnessing and honing their managerial, technical, and entrepreneurial skills. This will not only help in fostering entrepreneurship but will also create a more talent-ready workforce to meet the growing global demands for products and services across the world.
Skill development is one of the cross-cutting sectors that has enormous potential for not only the youth of the country but also for the healthcare, MSME, manufacturing, and consumer-tech industries. Capsule-based training programs using intuitive learning tools by leveraging the existing digital infrastructure can be a game changer.
Healthy urbanisation and formal sector employment in India
India finds itself poised at the threshold of a profound urbanization surge, due to which an emphasis has to be laid on the urban poor, vulnerable communities, and rural migrants.
As more people migrate to cities in search of better income and opportunities, we have to not only focus on biodiversity protection but also ensure that we foster more employment in the formal sector. India has effectively transitioned a significant portion of its workforce from the less productive agricultural sector; however, the majority of employment opportunities still predominantly exist within the informal economy.
According to findings from the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) and the Periodic Labor Force Survey (PLFS), spanning from 1999 to 2019, the data reveal that a substantial portion (16%) of the labour force that shifted away from agriculture found employment in the construction sector (11%).
India must have a long-term strategic vision that not only promotes sustainable infrastructure practices but also promotes gender equality to create more formal job opportunities and reduce reliance on the informal sector. Emphasis has to be on the manufacturing sector, with an emphasis on local production and expansion within India for more inclusive growth.
The Production-Linked Incentive Scheme and the Semicon India Programme are some of the initiatives that are contributing to the encouragement of global investments with a focus on MSMEs and small enterprises to drive economic growth.
Enhancing the overall delivery of healthcare services in India
One notable aspect of the budget is the emphasis placed by the government on preventing cervical cancer through vaccination and the introduction of the U-Win application designed to streamline and manage immunizations across the country.
The government has also taken a series of initiatives, like the Ayushmann Bharat Digital Mission, which aims to create a unified digital healthcare stack to promote digital health and improve healthcare outcomes. However, there is an abject paucity of healthcare infrastructure; there are merely 1.4 beds per 1,000 people, 1 doctor per 1,445 people, and 1.7 nurses per 1,000 people.
There are issues in infrastructure which often cause difficulties in accessing healthcare services. Though there has been an increase in the total expenditure on health from ₹79,221 crores in 2023-24 to ₹90,171 crores in 2024-25, India has to make a long-term strategy to ensure that at least 6-7% of GDP is utilized in healthcare spending. Efforts have to be made to keep a tap on healthcare inflation.
(Dr. Heera Lal is an IAS Officer, Shivansh Gupta is an Associate at MicroSave Consulting; Views are Personal)