Minister of Railways and Commerce & Industry Piyush Goyal defended the Union Budget for the increase in cess on fuel prices, one of the highlights of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s speech in the Lok Sabha on Friday. The Minister asserted that the Government needs some source of funds to provide ease of living, good infrastructure and other benefits to 130 crore citizens. He also asserted that the people trusted Prime Minister Narendra Modi with every rupee for the good of the society and that they understand the economic benefits they are going to get.
On the Debate with Republic Media Network’s Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, Piyush Goyal was asked why the petrol and diesel prices are increased at a time the global crude prices have fallen by 1.1 percent. The Minister replied, “The Budget is looking at how it can rejuvenate the economy, reaching 130 crore people. It’s looking at addressing the aspirations of a young India.
"It’s looking at making sure the farmers get a good deal, the poor get a good deal, the middle class can own their own house, give them more concessions, how can the traders get a pension scheme, how can Startup India get a fillip, how we ensure that banks are taken care of. When you’re doing all of this, and you’re still maintaining fiscal discipline, you want to invest Rs 100 lakh crore in infrastructure, you want to ensure that the people of India get ease of living, good quality, roads, railways, airports, obviously you’ll need some source of funds.
"When the prices of petrol and diesel were going up, crude oil prices were up internationally, the rupee was stressed, the dollar was going strong, we gave concessions also. The requirement was for concessions, the government released some of the tax bills.
"Today, prices are down, the dollar is down, the rupee is strengthened, we have a little headroom and I think people of India very much appreciate, that side the Americans appreciated the fact that the infrastructure, the highways were giving them a good deal.
"I think people trust Mr Modi, they know that every rupee that they pay is being put to good use for the welfare and benefit of the society. And lastly, when the infrastructure improves, the net effective consumption of petrol and diesel will fall. So I'm sure people have a good understanding of both their economic cost and the economic benefits they’re going to get. I can assure you a balanced budget maintaining fiscal prudence is what the nation wanted.
"We’re proud that the first woman full-time Finance Minister, my sister Nirmala Sitharaman ji has made this whole country proud with the way she presented the budget, a balanced Budget for all 130 crore people in India.”
The Union Minister was also asked why the custom duty on items traditionally manufactured by China was increased. On the move being a strategy to push Chinese goods out while encouraging domestic manufacturing, Goyal replied, "First of all, we don’t make trade policy or foreign policy based on an individual country, particularly when it comes to tariffs and taxes. The same applies to all, except a few where we have free trade agreements, and we don’t have any free trade agreement with China.
"But the intention is clear, give a boost to local manufacturing, if you will see the sub-text in the Budget is clear, to give a boost to local manufacturing, The MSMEs has got a very strong case in the budget, The banks are being strengthened to lend to them. MBFCs are once again being rejuvenated, they’ve been given credit enhancement tools with first cost guarantee to ensure that MBFCs are not starved of liquidity. The MSMEs up to Rs 400 crore turnover are given a lower tax structure of 25 percent, We’ve also given a 2 percent interest subvention for their incremental lending, so holistically, we’re addressing the MSMEs sector to make them more competitive, to make them in a position to serve both domestic and international markets.
"And for the last month that I have taken over Commerce, our focus has been export promotion and import substitution. I think it’s high time, the industry started addressing what is the demand in India, why can’t we manufacture in India, high quality and high economies of scale to benefit the consumers in India. Also I’m in dialgoue with international trade ministers of other countries to ensure so that we are not jilted with low-quality products or their hidden subsidies because of which cheap goods are flooding the Indian market.
"We want to make sure that Indian manufacturers get a level-playing field and I can assure you that Ganpatis will be made in India in Mumbai, the toys will be made in India, more and more products coming to India for which we are going to encourage more technology and good quality technology which is environment friendly."