GUWAHATI: A cross-section of stakeholders, including trade and industrial bodies of the northeastern region on Tuesday hailed the Union Budget 2022-23 presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Parliament, even as the opposition criticized it as “anti-people and anti-economy”.

Reacting to the Union Budget, Ranjit Barthakur, chairman of FICCI Northeast Advisory Council said, “This is a pragmatic budget that focuses on core sectors like healthcare, infrastructure, MSMEs technology, and financial inclusion.”

Barthakur welcomed the increased outlay on capital expenditure in the budget and said, “With the increase of capital expenditure by 35.4%, the effective capital expenditure of the Central government will go up to Rs 10.68 lakh crore, which translates to 4.1% of GDP. This will give a major boost to the sustainability of economic growth.”

“We particularly welcome the focus on infrastructure and social development projects through thePM’s Development Initiative for the Northeast. The initiative will help bridge critical infrastructure gaps in remote areas and provide livelihood options to people in the region. We hope the initial outlay of Rs 1500 crore for the scheme will be suitably enhanced as per requirement,” added Barthakur.

Terming the focus on Energy Transition and Climate Change “a step in the right direction”, Barthakur said, “Northeast is one of the most important biodiversity hotspots of the country, and the region could benefit immensely from the decision to bring about legislative changes to promote agroforestry and private forestry. The old economic model of rapid growth is now recognized to be the fundamental cause behind the depletion of our natural resources. Since 2020, climate and biodiversity risks have topped the World Economic Forum’s Annual Risk Report analyzing business perception of economic risk. Climate change has been costing the world over $150 billion annually since 2017.”

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“The decision to provide financial support to farmers belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, for agro-forestry is also very welcome. We will be requesting the government to allow the tea Industry also to take advantage of the proposed legislative changes and financial support,” he added.

Hailing the Union Budget, the Federation of Industry & Commerce of North Eastern Region (FINER) chairman Pabitra Buragohain said that the finance minister presented a capital expenditure-led budget aimed at reviving the Covid-hit economy and creating of more jobs over the next two decades.

“To help small businesses recover from the pandemic, the budget proposed to extend the emergency loans scheme (ECLGS) to MSMEs till March 2023 and expand its guarantee cover by Rs 50,000 crore to a total cover worth Rs 5 lakh crore. This scheme will be key to ensure that MSMEs impacted by intermittent lockdowns in states get funding to stay afloat,” Buragohain said.

To revive manufacturing, the government has laid thrust on the PLI scheme and enhanced its scope. The sunset provisions for concessional Income Tax of 15% on manufacturing has been extended by a year to 31st March 2024. FINER hoped that the new North East Investment & Industrial scheme, which is expected to be announced by March this year, would provide for spurring investment in the Northeast which has come down from 8.3% in 2017 to 0.02% in 2019 after the NEIIPP 07 was over.   

It is evident from the allocation of Rs1500 crore towards various infrastructure projects across the Northeast that the Union government is committed to the development of the region. 

Further, Budget 2022-23 has provided a precise stance on crypto and taxation, effectively legitimising trading of private cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens. The government has proposed to issue a Digital Rupee, or Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), in the fiscal year 2022-23

MK Saharia, chairman, Sahariya Group, chairman, NE Regional Committee of Indian Chambers of Commerce (ICC) said, “We are delighted to notice the capital expenditure in the progress of east and Northeast and which is 2.9% of the entire GDP and the initiative of all the state capitals of East and Northeast to connect through railway. This is indeed a progressive budget for us from which a lot of people will be benefitted.”

According to Saharia, it is very positive that the government has announced the allocation of INR 1,500 crore for development initiatives in the Northeast.

According to the Union finance minister, a new scheme called PM’s Development Initiative for Northeast, PM-DevINE will be executed through the North Eastern Council (NEC). It will finance infrastructure in the spirit of PM Gati Shakti and social developmental projects established on the required needs of the Northeast. This will encourage livelihood activities for youth and women, filling the voids in different sectors. 

The ICC appreciated the growth-oriented policy direction of the Union Budget based on EoDB, reforms, clear direction based on digital transformation. Budget measures would raise demand, support consumption, fast track economic recovery, support Employment generation and Output in the Economy. 

Meanwhile, an industrialist said, “Industry stakeholders will certainly appreciate the introduction of a centralized digital currency by the government as it promotes a reliable and alternate payment tender. That being said, the proposed digital rupee and its pricing will be entirely regulated and controlled by the government.”

“Apart from the ‘digital rupee’, the government is not keen to recognize the availability of any other kind of digital currency in the country. As a result, free-market players will not be permitted to operate or use cryptocurrencies other than the digital currency issued by RBI. This will prevent market players from entering into several digital transactions that require other kinds of cryptocurrencies. Hence, the only way to bridge this gap would be if the government comes up with a set of regulations to govern all kinds of digital currencies in use in India, instead of a sole government-controlled currency,” he added. 

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