• To further improve the connectivity of villages with hospitals, schools and markets, Union Rural Development Minister Narendra Singh Tomar launched the third phase of the government’s rural road programme to widen and revamp 1.25-lakh km of roads.
  • As on December 16, 2019, more than six lakh km of rural roads have been completed under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) connecting 97.27 of the habitations in the country, the minister said, according to an official statement.
  • Of the total, a road length of 36,063 km has been constructed using green technologies, a major portion of which includes waste plastic and cold mix technology, he said.
  • The Centre’s fiscal deficit for April-November likely stood at 107% of the fiscal year 2019-20 target of Rs 7.04 trillion, said senior government sources. This compares to 114.8% for April-November, 2018-19, and 102.4% till the end of October this year.
  • This means that for the remaining four months of the fiscal year, the Centre has to initiate a heavy compression of expenditure in order to meet the fiscal deficit target, which has been pegged at 3.3% of GDP. For the first half of the year (April-September), fiscal deficit was at 6.6% of the GDP for that period.
  • In a major connectivity and infrastructure boost for the state of Kerala, the Government of India has given an in-principle approval to the Silver Line, a semi-high speed railway project between State’s capital city of Thiruvananthapuram and city of Kasaragod.
  • The project once completed would reduce the time taken to travel between the two cities from present 12 hours to just four hours, with the trains able to run at a speed of up to 200 kmph.
  • During the pre-Budget consultation with Union Finance Minister, some states made a case for fiscal expansion by boosting consumption to tide over the sluggishness in the economy. The biggest take home from Pre-Budget discussion of FMs is suggestion by Bihar and Kerala to raise the fiscal deficit limit to 4%. It was agreed to large number of states.
  • Some experts have already predicted that the fiscal deficit is expected to rise to 3.6-3.8% of the GDP during the current fiscal due to weak revenue collections resulting from sluggish economic growth and government’s sweeping corporate tax rate cut.
  • India Inc has sought more measures for ease of doing business and export promotion coupled with simplification of labour laws. Industry chambers also advocated for expansionary fiscal policy to arrest the slowdown.
  • At a pre-Budget meeting with representatives of Indian industry, export business and services industry called by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, the industry bodies made this pitch.
  • Discussions were also held on the regulatory environment impacting private investment, measures for promotion of exports amidst rising protectionist tendencies, Industrial production, logistics, media and entertainment services, and IT and IT-enabled services among others.
  • Power demand and generation declined for the fourth quarter in a row in India, indicating a slowdown in the economy.
  • Total conventional power generation, which is predominantly fueled by coal, was down six percent on a year-on-year basis in November, according to a report.