Jobs, rural India likely to be focus of union budget 2024: Goldman Sachs

The first budget by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new government may consider increased welfare spending, with a focus on rural economy and job creation.

The first budget by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new government may tilt towards, but not pivot to welfare spending, with a focus on rural economy and job creation, economists at Goldman Sachs said in a note on Monday.

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman addresses a press conference after the 53rd GST Council Meeting, at the National Media Center in New Delhi.

The budget proposal for the financial year ending March 2025 will be presented on July 23, the government said over the weekend.

Goldman economists expect the government to stick to its fiscal deficit target of 5.1% of GDP set in the interim budget but said it will likely make an “overarching statement” about long-term economic policy.

“We see an emphasis on job creation through labor-intensive manufacturing, credit for micro, small and medium enterprises, continued focus on services exports by expanding global capability centres, and a thrust on domestic food supply chain,” Santanu Sengupta, chief India economist at the Wall Street bank wrote.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party failed to win a majority on its own in national elections this year and returned to power with the help of allies. Post-poll surveys showed that unemployment and inflation were key concerns among voters, particularly outside of urban areas.

How is the current situation with jobs in India?

While the Indian economy is seen growing a fast clip of 7.2% this year, job creation has lagged.

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“Even 7% GDP growth might not be able to fulfill the job requirement over the next decade,” Citi’s chief India economist Samiran Chakraborty said in a note last week, adding that growth of close to 7% will generate 8 million to 9 million jobs per year, short of the 11 million to 12 million needed.

Goldman expects the budget to push labour intensive manufacturing through fiscal incentives across sectors like toys, textiles and apparel manufacturing, along with commercial aircraft manufacturing.

Citi, in a report, said the government could consider extending its flagship production linked incentive scheme with a focus on “more domestic value addition and explicit employment targets.”

Almost two-third manufacturing jobs are in low-skilled labor-intensive sectors, Citi said, without specifying whether these announcements would be made in the budget.

Goldman also expects a focus on agricultural infrastructure and incentives to increase domestic production of key crops as a way to target high food inflation, which has been running close to 8% for many months.

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