Health, Rural Sector Focus of Budget 2018

Health and agriculture were the focus of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its last full budget ahead of the 2019 general elections.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced the launch of National Health Protection Scheme to insure the secondary and tertiary care expenses of 100 million poor families (500 million people) up to Rs 500,000 per family per year.

“It would be the largest healthcare programme in the world,” Jaitley said in his nearly 110-minute bilingual speech.

The current programme--Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana--offers Rs 30,000 cover for poor families.

Jaitley also announced plans to launch 24 new government medical colleges/hospitals across the country.

In a big boost to the farming sector, the finance minister has proposed a minimum support price for all kharif (monsoon) crops at the rate of 150% of the cost of production.

In other big announcements, the FM announced allocation of Rs 2,000 crore to develop agriculture markets, and Rs 500 crore for launching Operation Greens--on the lines of Operation Flood--to address price fluctuations in potato, tomato and onion for the benefit of farmers and consumers.

Agriculture credit has been increased 10% by Rs 1 lakh crore to Rs 11 lakh crore for the next year.

Sounding confident about the growth of the economy, Jaitley said average growth over the last three years has been 7.5% and growth is likely to be 7.2%-7.5% in the second half of 2017-18.

Jaitley said the government has met the divestment target for the current year by raising over Rs 100,000 crore but has scaled down the divestment target to Rs 80,000 crore for 2018-19.

On the budget numbers, Jaitley said the revised expenditure for the current year would be Rs 22.17 lakh crore as against the budget estimate of Rs 21.47 lakh crore.

For salaried tax payers, Jaitley announced the introduction of standard deduction of Rs 40,000, and increase in tax-free income from deposits for senior citizens to Rs 50,000.

Here are the key insights from Jaitley’s budget speech:

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