Budget 2021: Nirmala Sitharaman should build on these three pillars

PSU Bank privatisation

General Budget 2021: Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present the Union Budget for the financial year starting April 2021 in a month from now. India is on the cusp of becoming the “sustainability, regeneration and reassignment of assets” capital of the world. The finance minister can speed up India’s transformation by focusing on three ideas — sustainability and regeneration, education and health for all, and a block chained India.

For the first time in history, some of the old and decaying fossil fuel-based plants and assets will be mothballed. Enterprises like Air India and BPCL will be sold and many will have their surplus assets sold. A large part of the resource generation will be from this source.

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In the private sector too, the concept of ‘gross zero’ will be deployed. Incentives will be provided for 3–D printing driven manufacturing with renewable power. Centre-state/ company-individual strategies and resource allocation will follow environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles. The entire exercise will be driven by subsumed 17 Sustainable Development Goals — No poverty; no hunger; good health and wellbeing; quality education; gender equality; clean water; sanitation; affordable, clean energy; decent work and 10%+ economic growth; industry innovation and Infrastructure; reduced inequalities; sustainable cities and communities; responsible consumption and production; climate action; life below water; life on land; peace justice and strong institutions; partnerships for the goals.

Reporting will be on 6 capitals. From the current level of 80 companies reporting on integrated reports, the number will rise to 800. Natural, human, financial, manufactured, social relationship and intellectual capital will be reported using metrics such as environment performance index; human capital/ happiness index; clean GDP per capita; asset reassignment; regeneration index; and gross trust index.

New mind-sets of abundance; moon shots; massive transformative purpose; exponentiality; as well as gratitude and innovation will drive actions. Digital era constructs: digitise, disrupt deceive, dematerialise, demonetarise, delocalise, and democratise will be widely deployed to enable growth to touch 10%.

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Union Budget 2021: Focus on healthcare

India will certainly emerge as the largest producer and buyer of vaccines. By end of fiscal 22-22, India will have the largest number of vaccinated humans in the world. Yoga, meditation, running, walking, nutraceuticals and preventive healthcare are set to explode.

Breakthrough innovations in DNA mapping, blood test based early warning system on major diseases including cancer will emerge in India next year. Once the genome and the gut micro biome are mapped in a large number of cases, diet and supplement regimes will proliferate to enhance the quality of nutrition dramatically. Far healthier food will be produced and consumed as land gets allocated more scientifically to healthier food.

Protein extraction for consumption from Moong will become an egg substitute. Cellular Agriculture – animal cell extraction, culturing and production of meat, chicken, fish & eggs at scale will be licenced as has happened in Singapore. As complete re-cropping takes place during 2021, a protein explosion in Indian diets will be established.

Chief cause of many aliments will reduce /disappear as nutrition levels will rise dramatically. For the first time in our history, telemedicine, e- commerce in pharmaceutical distribution and technology driven home care will emerge. The budget allocation will rise to support healthcare for all.

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Budget 2021: Pushing experiential education

As the new education policy gets implemented by all states, phygital school will emerge all over India. Where possible, physical schools will be speed built. Elsewhere digital schools will get established. Many schools will be VR-AR enabled.

This will make education experiential. The best teachers from anywhere in the world will be imported into classrooms that can use the best content available. Live, interactive video, in full functionality will be deployed using the spatial web and quantum computing.

Emerging and widely deployed block chain technology will usher in honesty. The most valuable digital transformation will emerge as block chain drives RBI issued digital currency. The only way to reduce usage of currency notes is by substituting them by crypto currency. To facilitate seamless conversions, crypto exchanges will convert digital currency to fiat currency and also the other way around. As settlement systems become more reliable and robust, a new reliability and trust in the digital currency will emerge. This process can be kick-started by appropriate policy announcements in the Budget.

Accounting, GST, Auditing, cloud computing will all be increasingly block chained. This will lead to clean, reliable data. Data-led lending, monitoring, recovery, scoring, and regulations can then take full root. This is the only way forward to reducing the NPAs in the system as records are subjected to governance which is secure and private. Also, as data becomes immutable, the manipulation will be reduced considerably and will permit a new reliable, trustworthy financial system to emerge.

What to expect from Budget 2021

Besides these deployment and policy announcements, the next Union Budget is expected to:

  • Stabilise and simplify the law, enable swift disposal of pending tax cases and in general cater to the easing of taxpayer burden.
  • Attract investment from both domestic and international sources.
  • Completely rationalise and simplify the rate structure in GST.

As the government gets out of business in a determined manner, eases the life of citizens, delivers universal basic income and services, curtails financial manipulation and simplifies and stabilises the laws, citizens will respond with greater voluntary compliance and the tax-to-GDP ratio will soar. India will be on an irreversible path of sustainable and green growth.

(Shailesh Haribhakti is corporate leader based in Mumbai. He is a chartered and cost accountant, and writes regularly on the Indian economy and public policy.)

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Shailesh Haribhakti is a Chartered and Cost Accountant, an internal auditor and a certified financial planner. He is a board chairman, audit committee chair and independent director at some of the country's most preeminent organisations. He is a thought leader on the Indian economy and public policy.