The government will present its last budget ahead of the Lok Sabha elections on 1 February amid good prospects for economic growth.
Barring the tweak in the income-tax rebates without changing the overall tax structure and a few changes in here and there, the interim budget is unlikely to have any big announcements or fireworks by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the new Parliament.
As far as the Railways is concerned, the government's focus on higher expenditure on big-ticket infrastructure projects is slated to continue in the vote-on-account exercise.
The opening of a section of the Kashmir rail link project, the proliferation of Vande Bharat Express including the induction of Sleeper Vande Bharat and Vande Metro services are in the pipeline for the forthcoming budgetary allocations.
The completion of the Eastern DFC and near completion of the Western DFC are also to be taken into account in the mini-budget by Sitharaman.
Indian Railways has witnessed about 75 per cent capital expenditure utilisation, which can be termed as the highest ever in the first nine months of this financial year till December 2023.
The national transporter has made an expenditure of Rs 1, 95,929.97 crores till December 2023 which is approximately 75 per cent of the total capex (Rs 2.62 lakh crore) of the Railways during this financial year.
During the same period in December 2022, Indian Railways witnessed capex utilisation of Rs 1,46,248.73 crore. This year, capex utilisation is approximately 33 per cent more in comparison to the last year’s corresponding period.
This investment is seen in various infrastructure projects like new lines, doubling, gauge conversion, and enhancing passenger amenities.
To prevent accidents, the Railways has decided to implement Kavach, the indigenous-built anti-collision devices, in the entire rail network.
Safety of the passengers is paramount in Railways and a significant amount has been invested in enhancing the safety related works.
The Railways has undertaken a massive exercise of station redevelopment programme across the country under the Amrit Bharat scheme. The Budget is likely to give a further push to the ongoing exercise for revamping stations to provide better passenger amenities.
The recruitment exercise being undertaken in the Railways for various posts would also continue with more opportunities for job seekers in the railway sector.
The fiscal consolidation is a priority for the government. Fiscal deficit has narrowed down from 9.2 per cent in FY21 to 6.4 per cent in FY23.
A fiscal deficit is a gap between what the government spends and earns in a year, which can be reduced by increasing tax collections, by borrowing or by other means.
The full budget will be presented after the elections in July.
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