Srinagar: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday announced the Union Budget 2017, and made a number of announcements that are of significant relevance to the technology industry and consumers.
Budget 2017 has given a heavy focus to ‘Bharat’, with schemes and plans targeted at villages and the poor, but there are some other announcements that will have a broader impact as well.
Here are the Budget 2017 highlights:
1. No service tax on digital rail bookings
The Finance Minister announced in Budget 2017 that tickets booked via IRCTC will not have any service tax charged. This was earlier announced as a temporary measure, but now this will simply become the norm.
2. Hardware and software changes for Metro
With Budget 2017, the Metro rail policy will change to include standardisation and indigenisation of hardware and software, which will also create jobs.
3. Spectrum scarcity not a problem any more
The FM also said that the recent spectrum auctions have removed spectrum scarcity in the country.
4. BharatNet optical fibre rollout in Budget 2017
BharatNet Project has been allocated Rs 10,000 crores in Budget 2017, said FM Jaitley. He added that optical fibre cable (OFC) has been laid in 1,50,000km.
By the end of 2017-18, high-speed broadband on OFC will be available in more than 150,000 gram panchayats, with hotspots and access to digital services at low tariffs, he said.
5. The digital village
The Finance Minister also talked about a new initiative called DigiGaon. This initiative will be launched to provide tele-medicine, education, and skills, through digital technology.
6. Manufacturing announcements in Budget 2017
Remarking that a number of mobile manufacturers have set up in India, the FM said that the government is creating an ecosystem to make India a global hub for electronics manufacturing. He said that over 250 investment proposals have received in the last 2 years – totalling an investment of Rs. 1,26,000 crores. “I’ve therefore exponentially increased the allocation of schemes like mSIPS and EDFs to Rs. 745 crores in 2017-18 – an all-time high.”
7. Easier foreign investments
The FM also said the FIPB (Foreign Investment Promotion Board, which offers clearances for FDI) is to be abolished with Budget 2017. Further liberalisation of FDI being worked out.
8. Digital pension system in Budget 2017
The FM also announced a digital pension distribution system for retired defence personnel will be established, for easier access to their funds.
9. Cyber-security for financial systems
The FM also said cyber-security is critical for safeguarding the integrity and stability of the finance system. To that end, a computer emergency response team will be established for the financial sector – and will work in close coordination with financial sector regulators and other stakeholders.
10. BHIM gets new schemes
Stating that the BHIM app will help with payments and financial inclusion, the FM revealed that 125 lakh people have adopted the system.
The government will launch two new schemes with Budget 2017 to promote use of BHIM – referral bonus scheme for individuals, and cashback scheme for merchants. Steps would be taken to promote and possibly mandate petrol pumps, fertiliser depots, municipalities, block offices, road transport offices, universities, colleges, hospitals and other institutions to have facilities for digital payments like the BHIM app, the FM said.
11. Digital payments to be encouraged in Budget 2017
A mission will be set up with a target of 2,500 crores digital transactions for FY 2017-18 through UPI, USSD, Aadhar Pay, IMPS, and debit cards, the FM said. Banks have targeted to introduce additional 10 lakh new POS terminals by March 2017. Banks will be encouraged to introduced 20 lakh Aadhaar-based POS terminals by September 2017, he said.
Digital payment infrastructure and grievance handling system shall be strengthened, he added. Focus will be on rural and semi-urban areas through post office, fair price shop, and banking correspondents.