GREAT EXPECTATIONS

As Finance Minister P Chidambaram presents the Union Budget today,Puneites from different sectors hope he comes up with a people’s budget.

Written by EXPRESS FEATURES SERVICE | Published:February 28, 2013 1:59 am

Taxation

‘There should be more exemptions’

“This budget should definitely be good and in favour of the common man. In terms of tax exemptions,I strongly feel that the Union Budget 2013 should consider the basic exemption limit along the line of inflation. Taking into consideration the basic needs of the family,it is expected that the budget would hike the basic exemption,which would bring about the necessary respite for the common man. It is expected that individual taxation should be settled for a maximum of 25 per cent and the corporate tax should be at 30 per cent. As it is likely to be a pro-people budget,these expectations should figure in it. I also believe that fiscal deficit should be reduced to the minimal to curb the inflation. On the service tax front,confusions exist and they need to be ironed out. The negative services should be clearly spelt out by the government to facilitate clear understanding of this sector.“

S B Zaware,Central Council Member,The Institute of Chartered Accountants

Information technology

‘Incentives for IT sector’

“THE Union Budget as a tool to plan economic reforms is slowly losing its strategic importance as many majors decisions are taken on ad hoc basis. The fiscal 2012-13 has seen downturns in almost all sectors globally. If Indian economy needs to put on an overdrive,a lot of bold decisions are needed,but considering that 2014 is election year,I am expecting a populist budget,which will please the common man (on paper only). With all benefits such as STPI,SEZ already taken away in the last budget,the IT sector has shown less growth in this fiscal. Considering the fact that this sector offers a lot of jobs to the youth globally,it is expected that the government will revisit its decision in this budget. Especially,the SME sector and start-up companies need to be provided incentives in income tax/service tax. Similarly,companies operating for priority sectors such as defence/aerospace and life saving pharma sector need to be given special concessions in resource and development. IT training companies creating employments for the youth need to exempted from service tax.”

Deepak Shikarpur,Co-Chairman,IT Committee,Mahratta Chamber Of Commerce Industries & Agriculture

Infrastructure

‘Airport instruments and more staff ‘

“On every budget,there is usually an “announcement” of demands as put forth by the Ministry of Earth Sciences. Usually,every year these demands are fulfilled in the announcement of the annual budget. However,it is just not the budget allocation,what needs to be highlighted is also the implementation. There is an expectation to get better airport instruments for better weather forecast as well as for more manpower in the Met department. This is a long pending demand along with the one to fill in vacant posts. Fortunately,the ministry has been taking the lead for the monsoon mission and there are a whole lot of plans lined up for the same and necessary budgetary allocation is being made. The budget never announces any individual allocation to the department,but to the ministry. While there has been a constant push to upgrade ourselves and modernise the equipment,better execution is what needs to be followed.”

Dr A B Mazumdar,Former deputy director general,Met department

Health

‘Allocation should increase’

“The government requires to make a qualitative jump in the allocation for the healthcare sector to match its pronouncements in the 12th Five Year Plan. The second year of the 12th FYP begins from April 2013,and at least from this year there should be an increase in the healthcare allocation,which should be five times from that during the 11th FYP according to the previous official pronouncements. The Prime Minister had then said the 12th FYP would be a healthcare plan and the High Level Expert Group set up by the Planning Commission to prepare a blueprint for ‘Universal Health Coverage’ (HLEG) had recommended a jump in healthcare expenditure from the current 1.1 of the GDP to at least 2.5 to 3 per cent of the GDP during the 12th FYP.

It was important to prioritise the additional government healthcare expenditure. As recommended by the HLEG,it has to be for strengthening the primary healthcare by supporting the public health system,which has been neglected since the 199Os,barring some initiatives through NRHM. Rajiv Aarogyasri Scheme (RAS) in Andhra Pradesh has focused on funding the tertiary care,mainly through empanelled corporate hospitals,that too without appropriate regulation of the private sector. This has led to reduction in the proportion of funds for primary care from 69 per cent to 46 per cent and increased funds for tertiary care services from 16 per cent to 39 per cent. The budget should not fund such irrational,costly schemes. If the National Urban Health Mission (NUHM) is to be launched from this year,it should not be based on these kinds of insurance schemes. Specific allocation for ‘free medicines for all’,which would supply quality generic essential medicines to all patients,at least in the public health facilities,is also overdue.”

Dr Anant Phadke,Co-convenor of Jan Arogya Abhiyan

Real estate

‘Hike interest limit on housing loan’

“The year 2012 has been a little subdued as slow reforms coupled with lack of decisive political will and a struggling economy has affected market confidence,thereby dampening the real estate sector. Also,we have seen no major policy announcements directly benefiting the sector in the last few budgets. In such a situation,we have some of the key expectations from the Union Budget,which will provide a boost to the real estate sector.”

As far as the city goes,the first and most important demand would be to increase the interest limit on housing loan. Currently,under Section 24,the maximum amount of interest that can be deducted from an individual’s income on the housing loan is Rs 1,5 lakh. However with rising input costs and the subsequent increase in real estate prices,the interest rate subsidy limit needs to be significantly enhanced to ensure a larger scope of affordable housing for buyers. This will also help the developers offload their housing units’ inventory.

Another important step would be to separate the principal amount of housing loan from Section 80C. Presently,the deduction of Rs 1 lakh under Section 80C includes the principal amount of housing loan. Since this deduction is towards investments in PPF,LIC,etc,the principal amount of the housing loan should be separately allowed as deduction and not form a part of the Rs 1 lakh limit. Other important steps would be to increase affordable housing loans in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities.”

Rajas Jain,Managing Director,Kumar Properties.

social welfare

‘Focus on unorganised sector’

“In November,we had made a representation of all sectors before the Prime Minister. This included schemes for aanganwadi workers,better implementation of midday meal schemes and rural employment. The PM had assured us a better honorarium for aanganwadi workers as well as retirement benefits. Better implementation of government schemes should be focussed on and health and retirement benefits for the unorganised sector stressed upon. For the state,there should be focus on drought relief package as well as better irrigation and drinking water schemes ahead of the summers. We have been allotted some funds,but we could do with some more considering the drought situation.”

Shubha Shamim,activist

Industry

‘Streamline central and excise taxes’

“AT present,though the rates of central and excise taxes are reasonably rational,a lot needs to be done in order to streamline the system. There are quite a few grey areas and the anomalies have to be edged out on an urgent basis. The lack of clarity about what is to be taxed and what is not is the biggest problem with the system and the Union Budget must take steps to address it. At present,the government takes our regular notifications detailing the list of items,which are within the tax regime,but then at times such notifications are contradictory. Also,the Union Budget can consider taking services like power and telecommunication off the service tax net. Taxing such industries,which provide essential services,is in itself a contradiction to the concept of service tax.

Zubin Kabraji,Regional Director (Pune),Indo German Chamber of Commerce

Banking

‘Reduce interest and repo rates’

“THE major issues facing the banking sector is the lack of capital and this budget must address that issue. Though we have a large number of nationalised banks,none of them are of international standard. The ministry must make efforts or start the process for consolidation of the banks,which would ensure a drastic increase in the capital of the banking sector. We hope the budget has taken steps to reduce the rate of interests and also the repo rate. This would in the long run give a boost to the manufacturing sector with easy availability of finance. “

Nandakumar Kakride,Banking and share market expert

Education

‘Increase funds’

“I hope the Union Budget would give due importance to education as timely availability of funds is critical for the sector. The budget should have a fair share of investment for primary,secondary and higher education. In primary education,RTE needs a boost. Last year,there was no provision in the budget for RTE Act. This year,I hope they allocate a good amount of money. As discussed in the past budget,Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyaan and Uccha Shiksha Abhiyaan should be launched and given required funds for their effective implementation. Private parties should collaborate with public office for skill development courses. Incentives should be given to foreign investors looking for putting money in the education sector. The demand to invest exists but due to various bottlenecks like lack of clarity at legal and administrative levels,investors are not able to come. The National Skill Council should understand that just giving a few hundred crores will not boost the vocational educational system. The vocational education was pushed at ITI level but the structures were financially non-viable. There is a need to redefine the policy at financial and administrative levels. A structural overhaul in the way funds reach the universities and students is need of the hour.”

Arun Nigavekar,Educationist and former UGC chairperson

Defence

‘Waive taxes on supplies’

“If the government wants to strengthen defence industry base in the country,the defence supply should be treated as deemed exports. The income tax,excise duty and other such taxes should be waived from defence supplies. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the defence sector is for those who want the increased foreign components/foreign technology to be a part of their equipment. What the Indian small and medium scale (MSME) industry needs is not FDI,but more incentives,tax benefits and other such exemptions as they will result in generating surplus funds,which can be invested in defence research and development,which forms the basis of self-sustenance. We hope this comes through.”

D S Kamlapurkar,Chairman,Defence Electronic Manufacturers’ Association,Pune

ENTERTAINMENT

‘Better infrastructure for film screening’

“I don’t think there is any major financial concern as far as entertainment industry is concerned. The main issue is the service tax net,which has already been addressed. Currently,the industry is thriving and should not look for governmental support to stand on its feet. However,government should take some steps to propagate those films that address the real issues of the society and can create mass awareness for overall development. As far as regional films are concerned,we need better infrastructure from the state government. For instance,small 300-seater theatres should be opened in every taluka so that the audience can have an access to good films near home and don’t have to travel to big cities to watch films. Besides,it is a one-time investment and will be a win-win situation for the government.”

Girish Kulkarni,Marathi film actor,writer,producer.

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