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    Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the Interim Budget yesterday in the Parliament. This is the last budget before the Lok Sabha election, which is slated to take place in the next few months

    Here are the top quotes from the big interview:

    1. “We are confident because in the last 10 years, we not only announced pro-people schemes but even worked hard to execute them. The beneficiaries know that we did what we promised. They come and speak about the benefits they received from the schemes the Modi government has launched. People have trust in PM Modi’s leadership,” the Finance Minister said on the government’s confidence before going to polls.

    2. The Finance Minister said “People have unwavering faith in Prime Minister Modi. We chose not to consult anyone for the interim budget. I took advice from the Prime Minister who suggested that you should consult during the full budget in July. In the last 10 years, we have maintained a discipline with working on working schemes.

    3. On no populist schemes in the interim budget, the Finance Minister said “Everyone was confident that people know that the schemes had reached them and that the govt is transparent. The PM has maintained a good financial discipline.”

    4. “Fiscal discipline and subsidies are not substitutes for one another. Even during the pandemic, we kept giving subsidies. We didn’t impose the increased cost on the farmers and after that the farmers had confidence in us they kept giving us in same price even after the price rise. When every scheme is towards empowerment, we need to do everything to take it to the people,” the Finance Minister said.

    5. On government spending, the minister said, “We would work so that social welfare reaches the people. We will spend on that. For good schools, for good computers, we will continue these.”

    6. Ms Sitharaman said, “I want to say this – every time there’s a decision, the PM asks how many jobs would a new scheme create, how many of these would be direct and how many indirect.”

    7. On increased Capital Expenditure (CapEx) in the interim budget, the minister said, “We will think exhaustively in July. We haven’t cut CapEx allocation. Even an 11 per cent increase is at a higher base. We have reached 11 lakh crore…However, how much you invest in capex, you should keep in mind the absorption. It takes time for it to trickle down”

    8. No disinvestments or privatization was announced in the Interim Budget. The finance minister responded to this and said, “We should also know that valuation is important. Whether it’s a listed or an unlisted company, we need to pay attention to their valuation and should know if internal systems are right or not.” 

    9. The minister cited the LIC IPO and said, “I was surprised. But then I worked hard to fill the gaps in the systems before the IPO. Public undertakings since 1991 have been trying to bring in internal professionalism, but there was not much market orientation.”

    10. On the government’s focus on Research and Development, Ms Sitharaman said, “National research foundation was mentioned in our budget 2 years. The funding was there even before that but it was scattered and even the documentation wasn’t proper. In the National Research Foundation, we brought the scattered funds together. In the private sector, where there’s a lack of funding, we are trying to fund them. If you are doing  innovation for the country, the money will be there for you.”

    11. The government will be bringing a whitepaper on the economy and the finance minister said, “In 2014, we took over the economy that is in such a bad state. There was economic paralysis and corruption. But there is still doubt and we needed a whitepaper back then, but the PM put the people first. If we had brought the whitepaper, then no one would have invested in looking at the fragile state of the economy.”

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