NEW DELHI, Feb 13: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today said that the government, undeterred by the COVID-19 pandemic, has been pursuing reforms for achieving sustained long-term growth in a bid to make India one of the top economies of the world in the coming decades.

Replying to debate on Budget 2021-22 in Lok Sabha, she said the Prime Minister did not lose any opportunity to continue with the reforms and this Budget has set the pace for India to become self-reliant or ‘aatmanirbhar’.

The Budget 2020-21 has laid emphasis on increasing capital expenditure, raising allocation for healthcare capacity building and development of agriculture infrastructure, among others, which are expected to have a multiplier effect on the economy.

She said her Budget has provided the highest capex growth of 34.4 per cent by providing more money to railways, roads and defence.

Referring to a series of measures taken to stimulate the economy hit by the pandemic, she said COVID-19 did not deter the government from taking up reforms, which are going to be necessary for sustaining long-term goals for this country.

Emphasising that sustained commitment to reform is blended in the Budget, she said, “Reforms are going to lay a path for India to be one of the top economies of the world in the coming decades.”

Responding to the charge of crony capitalism, the minister said the government under Narendra Modi works for common people and not for cronies.

Reeling out statistics to show the government’s pro-poor policies, she said measures of providing toilets, houses and MUDRA yojana, rural roads were not meant for cronies.

“We don’t do work for any cronies, we work for the common citizen who believes in the Prime Minister,” she said.

With regard to increasing allocation for rural job guarantee scheme, the Finance Minister said the government will allocate more funds for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MGNREGA) scheme for 2021-22, if needed, as against Budget estimate of Rs 73,000 crore.

Compared to the previous regime, the Finance Minister said the government has always raised expenditure on MGNREGA scheme at the revised estimate level right since 2014-15.

In the current 2020-21 fiscal that ends on March 31, Rs 61,500 crore was provided in the Budget but the provision was increased to Rs 1.1-lakh crore in view of the support needed to help those in distress during the pandemic.

On the cash dole scheme of PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana providing Rs 10,000 crore less in current and the next fiscal, she said this was because of “rationalisation” of expenditure following the West Bengal government not providing the list of 69 lakh beneficiaries. – PTI