The India Today Group successfully organized the India Today Budget Round Table 2023 on Monday, 6th February, in the national capital. The event, wherein the Union Budget 2023 was critically analyzed, kicked off at 12 PM with the first session, ‘The Road to Prosperity’, with the speaker being Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister of Road, Transport, and Highways. On asked as to how will the additional allocation to his ministry be used, Gadkari said that while the Bharatmala 1 project is under process, the approval for Bharatmala 2 is pending with the cabinet.
He mentioned that the aim is to make green express-highways. Announcing a number of upcoming projects, Gadkari said that a new green express highway is being constructed from Akshardham, with which it will be possible to reach Dehradun from Delhi in two hours, Haridwar from the national capital in two hours, Delhi to Chandigarh in 2.5 hours, Delhi to Amritsar in 4 hours, Delhi to Srinagar in 8 hours, Delhi to Katra in 6 hours, and Delhi to Jaipur in 2 hours.
It will also be possible to travel from Bengaluru to Chennai in 2 hours, and from Bengaluru to Mysore in 1 hour, along with from Nagpur to Pune in 5 hours, which presently takes 24 hours. “New roads will give new prosperity to the nation”, stated Nitin.
The discussion with Nitin Gadkari was followed by a panel discussion, highlighting the salient features of the Budget, ‘Decoding the Fine Print’, with Rajiv Kumar, Chairman, Pahle India Foundation; TCA Anant, Former Chief Statistician of India; Former Member, UPSC; Soumya Kanti Ghosh, Group Chief Economic Advisor, SBI; and Abheek Barua, Chief Economist, HDFC Bank.
Looking at the Budget 2023 from a political angle, a heated debate then took place between BJP Rajya Sabha MP, Sudhanshu Trivedi, and National Spokesperson of the Congress, Supriya Shrinate. Economist Ashwini Mahajan was also a part of this discussion, ‘Budget 2023 and the Politics of an Election’. The next discussion took place on the topic, ‘Taxation: Hits and Misses’, with Ved Jain, Senior Tax Advisor; Neeru Ahuja, APAC Tax Head, Deloitte; and Sanjay Tolia, Partner, Price Warehouse Co.
During the discussion, it was seen that an income tax exemption till a 7 lakh earning slab has proved to be the biggest ‘hit’ of the Budget 2023, with another positive point being the corporate tax rate being stable. It was further mentioned how no other country has been able to achieve the kind of economic journey India has been able to, with the Indian economy being at 3.4 trillion now, and is expected to reach the 5 trillion mark by 2025-26, and the 7 trillion mark by 2030, while at the same time, the fiscal deficit is reducing too.
It was also highlighted that the new tax regime is appreciable, with the extended tax benefits.
Jayant Sinha, BJP Lok Sabha MP, at the event, said that the growth of India is a matter of pride, and is being hailed all across the world. He added that this is the aftermath of the long-term vision followed by PM Modi, because of which inflation is under control, and the private sector has been attracted towards investment. It is also noteworthy that we ace in a neutral or negative global environment, and next year, while the global economy is expected to be recessive, it is being anticipated that India will witness a 6.5% growth.
‘The Long and Short of Taxation’ was talked about by Nitin Gupta, Chairman, Central Board of Direct Taxes, who said that the contours of the proposed tax regime are in front of everyone, and a lot of changes have been made. He highlighted how it is up to the payer to choose between the new or the old tax regime.
The next panel discussion, ‘Push for Industrial Growth’, took place among Kunal Bahl, CEO, Snapdeal; Parvesh Minocha, Chairman, Feedback Infra; Rahul Garg, Founder and CEO, Moglix; Navneet Munot, MD & CEO, HDFC Mutual Fund; Prashant Tripathy, MD & CEO, Max Life Insurance; and Patanjali Keswani, CMD, Lemon Tree Hotels.
Dharmendra Pradhan, Union Minister of Education, speaking at the event, said that he was thankful to the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister for the handsome allocations made to the education and knowledge sectors. He mentioned that the job of the ministry of education is to create global citizens in India, with a global outlook. “We are preparing to implement the New Education Policy, 2020 with a proper budget allocation”, stated Pradhan.
Focusing on the role of the ministry towards better education, he said how education is a concurrent subject, and the responsibility of the same lied with both the Centre and the states. He then added that education has to be made qualitative, and the Budget gives priority to digital library, MSMEs, and other fundamental aspects for the same objective. “The biggest responsibility for the education ministry, currently, is to execute and implement the NEP 2020”, said Dharmendra.
Pradhan’s session was followed by ‘India’s Economic Superhighway’, that of Ashwini Vaishnaw, Minister of Railways, Communications, Electronics and IT, who focused on semi-conductors, calling them one important subject for the country’s future. He highlighted how electronic manufacturing in the country has grown manifold, and 9 billion dollars of mobile export is to be reached this year. “There has been created a very strong and positive approach by semi-conductors for India”, added Ashwini.
Speaking on the role of cryptocurrency, he said that nobody other than the government should issue currency, and hence, crypto as a currency is a clear ‘no-no’, but rather, crypto should be promoted as a technology only. Vaishnaw also hinted towards a huge transformation happening in BSNL.
Then spoke ‘The Budget Makers’, TV Somanathan, Finance Secretary; Sanjay Malhotra, Secretary, Department of Revenue; and Tuhin Kanta Pandey, Secretary, Department of Investment and Public Asset Management.
The grand finale of the event took place with ‘The Road to Amrit Kaal’, discussed by Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs. Speaking of the criticism the Budget has been receiving, especially from the opposition, Sitharaman said that sadly, while everyone wants to comment on the Budget, nobody has taken out the time to read the Budget. She added how the negative political leaderships are always cynical, and block hope for the country with their ‘toxic language’, showing hate, and spitting poison.
Mentioning how things have changed since 2019, the finance minister stated. “I am a lot cooler in accepting criticism now, as compared to 2019, and the credit for this goes to the media and social media for criticizing the Budgets and the activities of the finance ministry on whatever is done”.