Full-year India budget invests in roads, rails, electric vehicles

The administration of newly re-elected India Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled its full-year budget Friday, as the government tries to stimulate a sluggish economy and contain historic unemployment.

A woman walks in New Delhi, India. The full-year budget unveiled Friday calls for significant infrastructure investment in a bid to stimulate sagging economic growth.

The budget plan, presented by newly appointed Finance Minister Mirmala Sitharaman, calls for restructuring India’s national highway building program and spending about $73 billion on railway infrastructure in the next decade. It covers spending through next March.

“We need to invest heavily in infrastructure, in digital economy and on job creation in small and medium firms,” Sitharaman told lawmakers Friday.

India also set a goal of expanding electricity and offering clean cooking appliances to rural India regions, unless they reject it, by 2022, the 75th year of India’s independence. It also dedicates $8.8 billion for a rural jobs program, raises the fuel excise tax and offers greater incentives for drivers to buy electric vehicles.

Sitharaman said India’s economy will soon surpass $3 trillion — and the $5 trillion-mark will be “well within our capacity” in the next few years.

The public investment is meant to counter the stalling Indian economy and unemployment, which is at a 45-year high. First-quarter growth was India’s slowest in five years.

ByNicholas Sakelaris