After the bruising general election, India’s new government got down to the business of preparing the Union Budget. Much is expected of the Narendra Modi regime, which projected a pro-business, pro-reform image throughout the campaign.
While reactions to the Budget were mixed, it did include two important policy changes. Foreign direct investment norms for insurance and defence manufacturing were changed to attract more foreign players. Both sectors have been touchy topics, with battlelines drawn between those for liberalised investment norms and those in favour of a more conservative approach.
Whatever the merits of each argument, it’s clear that a long, hard road lies ahead on the economic front and these are the first steps of a fledgling government of which much is expected. There will be other, tougher decisions to make – reducing subsidies, a simpler tax regime that protects states’ interests and a land acquisition policy that will spur industrial growth while conserving land-owners’ interests, to name just a few.