What Women Want From The Budget 2019
The Indian Budget is a much sought after event every year. There is always a lot of buzz around the financial elements, taxes, investments, schemes and so on. Though most of the palpable economic frenzy remained more or less the same, there was one thing that was different in this year’s budget.
The 2019 budget was presented by India’s first full - time, woman Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman. Again, it may not mean much considering that many women have been actively involved in politics and are familiar faces that we watch in debates and on television. Yet, when you realize that the national budget is presented by a woman, it sort of seems that we are finally starting over from the other end of the spectrum.
Where once upon a time, women were deemed to understand very little of financial decisions, today, a woman presenting the budget of one of the most populated and economically developing countries of the world is a sign and sigh in the right direction.
Also, I guess it would be wrong to assume that women, especially in the past, did not understand much about economics. I am pretty sure that they did. But many of them probably never really took their inclination and understanding of these matters too seriously. Or rather they preferred for the men to wrack their heads over it, all the while being quite cognizant of money matters nonetheless.
Maybe they didn’t care to grasp the finer nuances of monetary education, the detailing and documentation about banking or the various forms and fundas of investments and taxes. Yet, it is practical to believe that women have always understood the essence of financial management. And this has never been truer than in today’s time and age. We see a high rise of women in the financial sector and taking up roles that involve numerical and calculative decisions.
The discussion on SHEROES that began with Sairee Chahal’s post, ‘What is your Budget wishlist?’ is a point in case. With a lot of comments by women on what they want from this year’s budget, it was quite clear that women have an inkling, rather a proper understanding of what makes up a budget and what is it precisely that they want from it.
So what is your budget wishlist?
If you ask this to someone who knows very little about finances, the answers would often border along being naïve or imaginative. On the other hand, the thread on SHEROES touches upon valid points, such as safety for women, boost to women entrepreneurs, education and schooling, housing, healthcare, and middle- class income. From succinct comments, such as, “ Education for all, health care, decrease in the price of gas and petrol, relief in tax” , to very specific financial comments, such as’ “ Higher FD rates for senior citizens and children below 18”, the budget wishlist on SHEROES encompasses quite a bit.
The Wishlist versus The Budget
Below are the top 5 points that the discussion on Sheroes highlighted. Corresponding to these broad categories are some pointers of the budget itself. Thus this is a summary of what most women want from the budget and what does the budget offer in reality.
#1. Women related issues –
A lot of comments centred on women safety, financial inclusion for women entrepreneurs, women empowerment, protection of girls wherein they should be taught self-defence and so on.
The Union Budget has in fact; put a considerable amount of focus on women-related policies. It has also proposed to set up a committee that will see the budget through the lens of gender allocation suggesting more ways in which women empowerment can be achieved.
In the budget itself, the Women and Child Development Ministry were given a 17.7% increase and the Anganwadi services an increase of 11% from last year’s budget.
For the safety of women, Rs. 500 crore has been allocated to the Nirbhaya Fund. Besides, for the women SHG or self-help groups the interest subvention program has been extended to all districts. Every woman member of the SHG who has a verified Jan Dhan account will get an overdraft of Rs. 5000, and one woman in every SHG will be eligible for a loan amount of Rs. 1,00,000 under the Mudra Scheme.
Sitharaman coined the ‘Nari tu Narayani’ slogan during her speech acknowledging the role of women as entrepreneurs. Besides, the SHG which empower women entrepreneurship in rural India, the government also extended the Standup India Scheme that assists new industry and businesses with capital till 2025. However, there is no distinct policy or assistance in this year’s budget that might help specifically the rise of a woman entrepreneur in a corporate or urban setup.
#2. Health care –
Improving health care, cheap health care, women hygiene products at cheap rates and making medical insurance GST free from private companies were some of the asks of women on Sheroes. The budget, however, seems to have done not much in healthcare. Though there has been an increase of 15% in the budgetary allocation to the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Sitharaman’s budget didn’t touch much upon any specific health care facilities or women related health issues. This may come as a disappointment to many since medical conditions; especially in rural areas continue to grapple with lack of amenities and infrastructure.
#3. Housing –
Home loans were a considerable part of the discussion on Sheroes. Many women felt that there was a need for home affordability for all and easier home loan policies for homemakers. And so here comes some good news. The budget announced that there will be an additional deduction of up to Rs. 1.5 lakh for the interest paid on a loan borrowed up to 31st March 2020 for the purchase of a house valued up to Rs. 45 lakh for first- time buyers.
#4. Education –
The want for education for all and better management of schools and private institutions was also mentioned in the budget wishlist. The budget of 2019 does pay attention to this.
Sitharaman has said that a new National Educational Policy is underway and Rs. 400 crore has been set aside for preparing world-class educational institutions. The policy will envisage changes in school and higher education. There will also be the initiation of a program called Study in India to make India a centre of higher education. Hence the overall emphasis of the budget was on higher education, of making the youth ready to take up jobs and develop skills. There is little to no mention of studies at the school level. However, it remains to be seen what the new educational policy may have in store.
#5. GST, Middle-class income and relief in taxes –
Many women want relief in GST rates and taxes, but those areas have remained unchanged during this year’s budget. The tax rates and cut-offs stand the same as last year, i.e those with taxable income up to 5 lakh do not pay any income tax. However, they still need to file their income tax return. The only significant change in GST related policies comes with a reduction of GST rates from 12% to 5% on electric vehicles or EV.
This year’s budget does mark a shift in its tone towards women-oriented policies. In her budget speech, Sitharaman said, “…the socioeconomic transformation that is taking place particularly in the last decade, Indian women’s role and leadership is distinct.
The recent elections have shown record turnout of women voters at par with men. We also have a record 78 women Members of the Parliament here. This reinforces our approach of going beyond just women-centric policymaking to building women-led initiatives and movements.” And that perhaps sums it all up. The fact that women do not really need piecemeal handouts, but equal participation in the economics and running of the finances, whether it be at home, at work or even in the parliament. Yet, on the other hand, some stark statistics need to be addressed. According to the Geneva-based World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2018, India ranks 142 out of 149 countries on providing economic participation and opportunity to women.
Though the facts look gruesome, we know that change is underway. We see the difference when women step up to speak about finances, when they decide to take the hard money decisions or when they get together to discuss on what they want the country’s budget to address. The women of India are definitely finding their voice and aligning their intellect to becoming financially independent and commercially viable.
Here is hoping that the magic lamp of economics and financial money matters is rubbed expertly by women to conjure the genie of prosperity, equality, and independence very soon.
N*****Mostly a woman wants how she decrease her expenses and save something for futur