Rajiv Ranjan excerpts on Union Budget 2022, Focus on digital, digital finance, and the future of finance

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Rajiv Ranjan – Chairman (Micro clusters development council of India, employment generation council, MSME council) Member NGC (AIMO)

February 9: This year’s Union Budget FY 2022–2023 of the Government of India has not only brought focus on digitalising finance and the finance sector but has also taken the public sphere by storm. The budget has used “Digital India” as a pillar to bring in inclusion and to build a robust economy in the long term. Some of the key highlights that cut into the finance and digital-finance space include:

CBDC—Digital Rupee

The budget proposal mentions that the digital rupee will be introduced by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in FY 2022-23.

“Introduction of Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) will give a big boost to the digital economy. Digital currency will also lead to a more efficient and cheaper currency management system. It is, therefore, proposed to introduce Digital Rupee, using blockchain and other technologies, to be issued by the Reserve Bank of India starting 2022-23”, Finance Minister Sitharaman said.

Cryptos as assets?

Meanwhile, the government has also announced that any income from the transfer of digital assets will be taxed at the rate of 30 per cent. This will impact all profits from trading in cryptocurrency and Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). “No deduction in respect of any expenditure or allowance shall be allowed while computing such income except the cost of acquisition. Further, loss from the transfer of virtual digital assets cannot be set off against any other income,” she added. To capture the transaction details, the government has also provided for TDS on payment made about the transfer of virtual digital assets at the rate of 1 per cent of such consideration.

Post offices on the core-banking system:

All the 1.5 lakh post offices in India are set to be connected to the core banking system in the FY 2022-23. This will enable financial inclusion and access to post office accounts through net banking, mobile banking, ATMs, and also provide online transfer of funds between post office accounts and bank accounts. It is worthy to mention that this proposal has its ideological genesis in the National Mission for Financial Inclusion (NMFI) of August 2014, which seeks to provide universal banking services for every unbanked household, based on the guiding principles of “banking the unbanked, securing the unsecured, funding the unfunded, and serving unserved and underserved areas”.

Digital banking Units’ in 75 districts by SCBs:

To mark 75 years of Indian Independence, 75 Digital banking units will be set up in 75 districts of the country by the Scheduled Commercial Banks (SCBs). This would push ahead financial inclusion, and the banks might see improved access to liabilities pools from newer consumer sources in those geographies.

Tax holiday extension for start-ups:

Eligible start-ups established before 31 March 2022 had been provided with a tax incentive for three consecutive years out of 10 years from incorporation. Now that eligibility has been extended to those eligible startups established before 31 March 2023.

Gift City: India’s first and only financial services centre:

Gift–IFSC has an entirely separate financial jurisdiction with the International Financial Services Centre Authority (IFSCA) as the unified financial services regulator. The IFSCA has been empowered under 14 separate Central Acts. An international arbitration centre will be set up in GIFT city to provide faster and cheaper dispute resolution, on the lines of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre or London Commercial Arbitration Centre.

Interlinkages for better credit access to MSMEs:

MSME portals such as Udyam, e-shram, NCS, and Aseem will be interlinked, widening their scope of usage. They will work as portals with live databases providing G-C, B-C & B-B services such as credit facilitation. With improved credit facilitation, the MSME sector would benefit by addressing the working capital needs, which have been plaguing them for a long.

Green Bonds

Digital universities to be set up to provide education:

“The immediate focus now as children come back to physical classrooms has to be on face-to-face teaching. Digital was essential during the lockdown, but we don’t have enough evidence to say what benefits it adds in comparison to in-person teaching,” said Samreeta Ranjan Head of ‘Ehsash’ an educational NGO that produces the Annual Status of Education Report. Ms Ranjan suggested that the priority in the year ahead must be on foundational literacy and numeracy, even as many Class 3 students step into a physical classroom for the first time this academic year.

One lesson the pandemic has taught us – online teaching should not be confused with a meaningful education. It may provide some engagement when schools are closed, but is pedagogically inferior to in-person learning within the learning community of the classroom and the school, said Rajiv Ranjan founder and managing director of Indie TikTok, Canvas Laugh Company, Rudraa Fresh, Rudraa Initiatives Media, National Coalition on the Education Emergency, noting that India has had among the highest numbers of days of school closures in the world. “In this context, what is needed is a huge infusion of funds to schools – to repair schools that were kept locked, provide teaching-learning materials, student learning resources to address multi-level learning gaps, fill all teacher vacancies and appoint additional teachers to support learning, provide support for community learning centres, and engage parents in the process,” he added.

He said that over the past few years, many digital enablers have been put into motion. The larger context that could leapfrog India as a digital finance leader-nation would be the ecosystem combination of ‘Open Network for Digital Commerce’ (ONDC—an open-source e-commerce platform that all online retailers can use), Open Credit Enablement Network (OCEN), blockchain-enabled financial system, Digital Rupee, UPI, the powerful JAM trinity, Digital University and the move towards the green-transition. This could make India a true digital finance state, and hopefully, without any digital divides that could marginalise anyone from participating in the citizenry benefits that such a state.

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