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Asia Minute: India’s New Finance Minister Delivers New Budget

Nishant Vyas
Creative Commons / Pexels

The world’s largest democracy has a new budget. India’s Finance Minister presented her first budget to parliament Friday, but it wasn’t just the numbers that got attention.

Housing and infrastructure are two priorities in the Indian government’s new spending plan.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the first budget of the second term of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday. She’s the first woman to be India’s Finance Minister since Indira Gandhi held the post in the early 1970’s — while she was also serving as Prime Minister.

Most income tax rates in the new budget stay where they are, but there is a surcharge for the very wealthy. Corporate taxes are cut to 25% from 30% for large companies. Taxes on electric vehicles are slashed by more than half to 5% from 12%.

There are incentives for people to increase digital payments and a national transport card — a single card that could work on trains, subways, buses – even paying highway tolls.

The budget comes as India’s economy is slowing, and unemployment is on the rise.

One other headline from the budget presentation was its presentation.

Up to now, Indian Finance Ministers have always taken the budget to parliament in a distinctive briefcase — just the way the budget is delivered to the British parliament in London. But this year it came in a traditional four-fold red cloth — called a “bahi khata.”

The Finance Minister said the suggestion came from her family. Although she’s well aware of the symbolism – adding that she wanted to “get out of colonial hangover.”

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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