Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present the Budget tomorrow (1 February), the union government's penultimate one, amid the looming uncertainties and global slowdown.
However, the Indian economy is expected to abate the inflation, while navigating the rough global weather with a resilient consumer demand, in 2023.
The rail and road sectors are expected to get a large share this year — as high as Rs 4 lakh crore.
While, proliferation of Vande Bharat trains, introduction of hydrogen fuel-based service, upgradation of passenger coaches and station redevelopment, are likely to be the main focus of the Budget in the rail sector, construction of more highways and expansion of road network will be road sector priority.
The Railways will be going ahead with acquisition of more coaches, wagons and locomotives in the 2023 Budget. According to sources, there are proposals for about 5,000 electric locomotives in the Rolling Stock Plan 2023.
The government had allocated Rs 1.4 lakh crore for 2022-23 and it is expected that the Railways is likely to spend more than that, by March end.
Since there will be greater focus on introducing more modern Vande Bharat trains, speeding up the track electrification programme and setting up of more cargo terminals, it will have the potential to spend more.
The allocation may be 25 per cent more than the Budget Estimate of 2022-23 with one of the main focus areas on taking up work that would help the Railways to increase its share in freight transport — which would play a key role in reducing the logistics cost.
Both the Road Transport and Railway Ministries may see 20-30 per cent increase in their allocation, considering their track record in spending so far.
As per the Budget estimate of 2022-23, the government had allocated Rs 1.99 lakh crore for the Road Transport and Highways Ministry, and going by the current trend of expenditure — the total spending is likely to touch Rs 2.1 lakh crore by March end.
The Road Ministry is also seeking approval of revised cost of Bharatmala Phase-I, its flagship highway development programme, and also inclusion of around 7,000 km of new road works. The revised cost of the ongoing and future works, which would be known as Bharatmala-1A would be around Rs 13 lakh crore.
Road and railway projects are the most visible infrastructure development works, and these generate more direct jobs.
Arun Kumar Das is a senior journalist covering railways. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
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