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Aware of middle class issues: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman ahead of Budget

New Delhi, Jan 16, 2023

A fortnight before the Budget, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday said that, coming from the middle class herself, she was aware of the pressures faced by this segment of the population, but pointed out that the Modi government had not imposed any fresh taxes but had provided several services.

Just like every year, there is expectation that the FM will tweak the tax slabs, especially this being the last full Budget of the current administration as elections are scheduled in the summer of 2024.

"I am also from the middle class. I identify myself with the middle class, so I know... We have not imposed any new tax on the middle class. We have given a complete tax exemption till Rs 5 lakh. Metro trains have been built in 27 cities, which are used by the middle class. The middle class is moving from villages to cities, we have allocated funds for making 100 cities smart cities. I have not put money in every middle class person's pockets... (but) haven't people gained from smart cities, metro trains, drinking water supply? We can do more for the middle class. I am listening to issues and I quite recognise problems. We will continue with our efforts," Sitharaman said at an event organised by RSS publication Panchjanya.

On the debate around freebies, the minister said that people were raising issues around what constituted a freebie and what was not.

"The issue is you promise something during elections, you realise after coming to power whether you can do it or not. When you can give the freebie, provide for it in the Budget... Several states are not doing it. They push the burden to the Centre... The power sector is facing a massive problem because of this," she said, while backing capital expenditure. "We need to create assets, not everyday expenditure," the FM said.

Without commenting on issues around the Budget, the FM said the Centre has stepped up capex as it provided the maximum bang for the buck. "Capex has been rising and the required spending will be done for the poor. Everyone will agree that revenue expenditure results in a gain of 45 paise from spending Re 1. Spending Re 1 on infrastructure or capex will give Rs 3.45 benefit in the short and long term," she said, adding that the government had found innovative ways, such as asset monetisation, to finance this.

She also slammed overseas agencies, which came up with findings that projected India in poor light. "Such indices are often used to target the government. We should question the methodology used by these organisations, their data and their intentions."

[The Times of India]