Yesterday, finance minister Arun Jaitley presented the Union Budget 2018. Below are highlights for the tourism, railway and aviation sectors.
- The Ministry of Tourism has been allocated ₹2,150 crore, which is 21 per cent more than what was given in the 2017-18 fiscal year.
- Infrastructure projects too have been given a higher budget of ₹1,330 crore — 16 per cent more from FY2017-18.
- For the development of tourist sites, Jaitley has reserved ₹1,100 crore.
- Capital expenditure for railways has been increased by ₹10,000 for this year to ₹1,48,500 crore for FY2018-19. Jaitley added that “Modern train-sets with state-of-art amenities are being designed.” Details include upgrading 600 railway stations by equipping them with wifi, CCTV cameras and escalators. Unmanned railway crossing — 4,000 in total will be removed and 18,000km of rail tracks will be doubled.
- Capacity of airports in the country will be increased five-fold to jointly handle 1 billion trips under the NABH Nirman initiative. Spice Jet’s chairman and managing director commented on this: “This initiative has the potential to transform the Indian aviation sector and make India a global aviation superpower. The initiative will help to connect smaller towns and cities and increase tourism and economic activity like never before. India has about 125 airports today. This number can go up to 700.” However, country director – India at International Air Transport Association (IATA), Amitabh Khosla has shown concern due to the lack of urgency in developing Mumbai’s airports. “But the big question mark on capacity, and a critical area of concern for IATA continues to be about Mumbai airport. Navi Mumbai airport is still a distant dream. In the meantime, Mumbai continues to fall behind in aviation activity, and Maharashtra state is unable to maximise the economic potential that can be delivered by aviation. We urge the government to urgently look at innovative approaches to bridge the infrastructure shortfall.”
- Under the successfully ongoing UDAN scheme, Jaitley stated that 56 unserved airports and 31 unserved helipads across India would be connected. To enable this, he has increased the allocated funds to ₹1,014 crore, about five times higher than the last fiscal year. Jaitley said: “Infrastructure is the growth driver of the economy. Our country needs massive investments, estimated to be in excess of ₹50 lakh crore, in infrastructure to increase growth of GDP, connect and integrate the nation with a network of roads, airports, railways, ports and inland waterways and to provide good quality services to our people.”
- Air India, the state-owned company that is undergoing disinvestment has been allocated ₹650 crore, less than half of what it received in the last financial year.
- The sector hoped for a reduction in GST rates, but the budget didn’t grant this wish.