The Central Government presented the Budget twice in the year 2019. First the interim Budget was presented in February and later a full budget was presented on July 5th. Both the budget includes tax related declarations which can influence personal finances.
There are some tax reforms which have been done to achieve two goals; proving beneficial to the tax payers as well as boosting the real estate sector. Although tax rebate was hiked in the Interim Budget, they were high expectations that more relief would be given to tax payers to enhance savings, consumption and investments. However, the Finance Minister didn’t touch the tax slabs and rates for the senior citizens.
Nirmala Sitharaman in her speech proposed “an electronic fundraising platform – a social stock exchange” for listing social enterprises and voluntary organizations “working for the realization of a social welfare objective so that they can raise capital as equity, debt or as units like a mutual fund.” Social Organizations are playing a vital role in in solving problems related to health, finance and education and creating a Social Stock Exchange platform will help these organizations raise funds for the work they are doing.
The government announced a host of incentives to “release the entrepreneurial spirit” in the words of India’s first Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitaharaman. The government will be debut a TV program on national broadcaster Doordarshan, dedicated for startups, run and executed by startups. Simplification of foreign direct investment guidelines into startups divisions like e- commerce, grocery and food deliver. Offering a host of developments to the digital payments systems, ecosystems that would help tech startup, incentives for electric vehicles that would help EV startups and ensuring that startups do not feel the heat of angel tax from IT authorities. Though measures were announced for extending digital literacy to the furthest parts of the country and promise of proving power in the remotest of village remains a far-fetched thought, seniors struggle the most with digital payments.
The budget of 2019-20 did not mention anything about the National Social Assistance Program which provides income security to the disabled, widows and elders. Since the Central Government covers only 3.55 crore beneficiaries, 70 % of the population comprises of the widows, disabled and the elderly who will not be able to avail the benefits of the scheme. Mathew Cherian, CEO, HelpAge India said “The miss given by Finance Minister Piyush Goyal, to the National Social Assistance Program from the Budget speech is extremely disappointing”.
Health Security is one of the most important aspects for the overall social protection of the elderly in the country. Under section 20 of Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (MWPSC) Act of 2007, the states are required to provide one Geriatric Care Facility in every district and beds in all government hospitals was mandatory, yet there is no advancement seen in this regard. The objective of the National Program for Health and Care of Elderly (NPHCE) was launched nearly a decade ago and the demand to it still remains unmet.
The “Stand up India” scheme impelled in 2016 to fund and encourage women entrepreneurs and relegated sections of the society will be further protracted for the period of 2020-25. “To further encourage women entrepreneurship, Women SHG Interest Subvention Program to be expanded to all districts in India,” Sitharaman said during the budget speech.
Naari Tu Naraayani scheme focuses on how only one woman in every Self Help Group (SHG) will be made eligible for Rupees 1 lakh Mudra loan. This will benefit the younger women who are more active and the older women will not be able to avail the benefits of the scheme.
The government will also set up 80 Livelihood business incubators and 20 tech business incubators which will aid in producing 75,000 skilled entrepreneurs in the agricultural industry sectors. The government also proposed 100% FDI in insurance intermediaries, and allowed 100% FDI in single brand retail and proposed removing 30% local sourcing norms.
The 2019 budget for New India forgot its senior citizens by a long margin, as they find themselves excluded once again. The expectations by the senior citizens from the Union Budget 2019 were high this times especially when the interest rates are falling and the medical inflation is on a high in India, but they have been massively let down by the budget constructs.
HelpAge is working with more than 6000 Senior Citizen Associations (SCAs) across India with over 10 lakh members. These elders are encouraged to become a unified voice raising elder concerns. HelpAge arranges awareness sessions on important issues like: old age pensions, reverse mortgage, financial planning, wills & legacies, and of late concentrating on digital literacy training sessions.
HelpAge conducts ‘Digital Literacy’ program by introducing elders to the online world by conducting workshops across the country. Partner institutions, organizations, volunteers and interns are encouraged to conduct basic tutorials for elders, using the HelpAge Handbook for senior citizens – Computers and Smart Phones learning made easy.
“We have to start grounding our policies in facts and recognize that a strong economy is critical for funding progressive priorities” – John Delaney