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New Delhi: Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman unveiled the Union Budget 2022-21 on Tuesday morning. While her speech contained few details, the Budget documents are a good place to find out where the government’s priorities really lie.
In eight charts, The Wire breaks down how much the Centre has spent on key sectors and certain flagship welfare schemes over the last year few years, and how much it is promising to spend in the year ahead.
1. Fiscal deficit
The government’s planned fiscal deficit (basically how much expenditure exceeds revenue by) for the upcoming financial year has been set at 6.4% of GDP. That’s less than both what was planned – 6.8% – and achieved – 6.9% – in the previous financial year.
According to Sitharaman, the target of 6.4% next year is consistent with the broad path of fiscal consolidation announced last year, to reach a fiscal deficit of 4.5% by 2025-26.
The last few years have been difficult for students across the country, as the COVID-19 pandemic led to long school and college closures. Surveys have found serious gaps in learning – even to the extent of loss of the ability to read – among students who do not have the means or space to attend online classes regularly.
In the last financial year, however, the government actually spent less on education (Rs 88,002 crore) than it had originally planned (Rs 93,224 crore). The reduced spending may have been due to the challenges posed by the second COVID-19 lockdown, a development that makes it doubly crucial for the Centre to spend its FY’23 budgeted expenditure.
This year, the government says it will spend Rs 1,04,278 crore on education – but it remains to be seen if this will go to making sure schools are in a good enough condition to be reopened and convincing students to return.
As the pandemic led to large-scale unemployment over the last few years, the demand for work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act has been going up. Rights activist have been arguing that with inadequate funding, the scheme is suffering from delayed payments and not enough opportunities.
That last year’s allocation was not enough seems clear to even the government – after planning to spend Rs 73,000 crore under the scheme, it ended up spending Rs 98,000 crore. Despite this knowledge, it has again planned to spend the original amount from last year – Rs 73,000 crore.
4. Rural development
Another area where the government has not increased planned spending commensurately despite overshooting the same amount last year is rural development. The allocation to the rural development ministry for the next year is Rs 1,38,203.63 crore, though last year it spend a total of Rs 1,55,042.27 crore.
5. Health and family welfare
We’re now stepping into the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic in India; a pandemic that has had a devastating impact on the country’s already-fraught healthcare services. Last year, the health ministry ended up spending more than originally allocated; now, the government has decided to slightly increase on that revised expenditure number (Rs 86,000.65 crore) for the coming financial, at Rs 86,200.65 crore.
6. Food subsidies
The budgetary allocations to food subsidies – which includes the public distribution system – has gone down substantially. This could be because allocations had been increased during the COVID-19-induced national lockdown.
While the government spent Rs 2,99,354.6 crore on food subsidies last year, it plans to spend far less – Rs 2,07,291.1 crore – this year.
7. PM Poshan/midday meals
This year’s allocation to the midday meals/PM Poshan scheme is the same as the revised expenditure for last year (Rs 10,234 crore) – and less than what was planned for spending last year. If the government is serious about reopening schools and encouraging children to return, the midday meal is an important part of that, as well as for the overall betterment of nutritional outcomes.
8. PM Kisan
The allocation for PM Kisan has broadly remained the same, largely because the scheme involves disbursal of a fixed amount of money to a mostly unchanging number of farmers. However, as experts have noted, by not increasing the quantum of payment, the real value of PM-KISAN transfers, which were started in interim Budget of 2019-20, has fallen by 15.5% in the quarter ending December 2021.