The general consensus is that while the Budget is slightly populist, it’s good that it focuses on healthcare rather than handing out sops.

New Delhi: Finance minister Arun Jaitley presented the Union Budget 2018 Thursday, focusing on the rural sector and healthcare access. ThePrint polled India’s influential industrialists on what they thought of this year’s Budget:

Rakesh Bharti Mittal, vice-chairperson of Bharti Enterprises and president-designate of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), said this Budget was quite different from the NDA’s previous four Budgets.

“Every Budget has a different focus area. This one clearly is focused on the rural sector and the health sector; there has been increased rural distress for the past couple of years.”

Ratul Puri, chairman of Hindustan Powerprojects Pvt Ltd, said: “I think this is a completely different Budget. At some point, we have to develop rural India, and this Budget seems to be focused on it. Building rural India is certainly populist, but it is also the right thing to do.”

The focus on healthcare access to rural India was appreciated by the health sector. Shobana Kamineni, executive vice-chairperson of Apollo Hospitals and president of CII, said: “On social infrastructure, they’ve gone to a level that was never done ever since I have been watching the Budget. When they’ve spoken about health, this is the biggest. It’s bigger than the US!”

Naresh Trehan, chairman and managing director of Medanta, called the Budget “responsible” and “forward-looking”. He said “it’s a very good Budget, addressing the needs of many people, especially the ones on the ground like the rural sector and healthcare, where 50 crore people have been brought under the safety net of healthcare.”

Mittal added: “I think we will see the largest healthcare system in the world, covering 50 crore people, 10 crore families, with Rs 5 lakh per year. This was needed for the poor. Providing healthcare to the rural sector has been one of the biggest bottlenecks.”

On whether this year’s Budget was populist, Kamineni said: “It was not populist, but a popular Budget. Being the last Budget (of this government), they could have given a whole bunch of sops and incentives. Instead, they said let’s address what’s struggling, like the agriculture sector.”

However, according to Shreekant Somany, chairman and managing director of Somany Ceramics, said there wasn’t anything about Budget 2018 that overshadowed the last four presented by the NDA. “This year’s Budget has been more or less the same as the past budgets, except we’ve heard more on the rural sector and the farmers,” he said.

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