NEW DELHI – The Indian government presented its budget for the next financial year on Thursday, with total expenditure estimated at 24.42 trillion rupees ($383 billion), around 10 percent more than the previous year, and a fiscal deficit target of 3.3 percent.
Presenting the budget to parliament for the period from April 1 to March 31, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said it would “focus on strengthening agriculture and the rural economy,” as well as provide “good health services to the economically less privileged,” care for the elderly, and education.
Jaitley said that “infrastructure is the growth driver of the economy” when discussing the budget’s spending targets, saying India needed an estimated investment of 50 trillion rupees in the future to increase its GDP.
He also announced an initial expenditure of 1.4 trillion rupees on railways and highways, in addition to an increase of private investment in infrastructure.
Jaitley estimates spending of 1.38 trillion rupees on health, education and social security.
The government admitted that it would finish the current financial year with a deficit of 3.5 percent, compared to the 3.2 percent announced.
The finance minister announced that the fiscal deficit for 2018-19 would be 3.3 percent, higher than the goal of 3 percent announced two years ago.
One of the budget’s most notable initiatives is the launch of a health program for around 100 million families who live in poverty who will be provided with a reimbursement of medical bills of up to 500,000 rupees per year.
Jaitley had earlier announced that the government expected a growth of 6.75 percent for this financial year, compared to 7.1 in 2017, and that India’s growth for 2018-19 would be between 7 and 7.5 percent.
“India is firmly on the path to achieve 8% plus growth,” he said, adding that the forecast for growth during the second half of the financial year 2017-18 was between 7.2 percent and 7.5 percent.
The revised budget for the current financial year, which ends on March 31, was 22.2 trillion rupees.