Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s second Budget, presented in Parliament on Saturday, has evoked mixed reactions from business leaders in Pune, with many of them saying they would have to go through details of the Budget before commenting on it. Some industry members, however, said the Budget could have done more in terms of sops and incentives.
Speaking on the decision to disinvest the government’s stake in the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC), Pradeep Bhargava, president of Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA), said the announcement was not backed by any details. “The government had other opportunities for disinvestment but it chose not to take them,” he said. Bhargava also sought more details about the Rs 103 lakh-crore national infrastructure pipeline mentioned in the Budget.
MCCIA director general Prashant Girbane hailed the 25 per cent increase in agriculture outlay as a positive move. “The plan to connect 100,000 gram panchayats via Bharatnet will allow for further growth of digital economy and education in the rural sector,” he said.
The introduction of a Taxpayer’s Charter as part of the Income Tax Act was welcomed by Shrikant Bapat, chairman of Confederation of Indian Industry, Pune. “The Budget was largely along expected lines and the proposals hold a lot of promise. The introduction of Taxpayer’s Charter as part of the Income Tax Act is a welcome step and so is the abolition of Dividend Distribution Tax,” he said.
Bapat said the structural reforms spelt out by the minister in the Budget will yield visible results in the next three or four years. The most discussed part of the Union Budget, the new and optional income tax structure, would need closer scrutiny, said some experts. Pune-based financial planner C S Iyer, however, said it was an innovative move. “The new tax structure, which is optional, is very innovative. It will benefit a large segment of taxpayers who do not wish to avail exemptions,” he said.
While Sitharaman spent a considerable amount of time talking about the MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises) sector, members of Pune’s MSME sector felt the Budget had failed to address their concerns.
Sandeep Belsare, president of the Pimpri-Chinchwad Small and Medium Scale Industries’ Association, said, “While the announcements about income tax and exempting units with up to Rs 5-crore turnover from audit scrutiny are good steps, we had expected some announcements about the reduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST) for the automobile sector”.
He welcomed proposals about setting up export facilitation centres at the district level and a Rs 27,000-crore fund to promote interstate trade.
Abhay Bhor, president of the Forum for Small Scale Industries Association, however, said the Budget didn’t have anything for the sector. “While foreign investors are being given the red carpet treatment, domestic industries are not being given any concession by way of tax benefits,” he said.
Increase in allocation for healthcare sector meagre: IMA
Half of the additional allocation of Rs 6,600 crore for the healthcare sector in the Union Budget 2020-2021 will be lost in meeting the cost of inflation, according to health activists. They have expressed concern that the slight increase in budgetary allocation is too meagre to have any significant impact.
In a statement, Indian Medical Association (IMA) president Dr Rajan Sharma said that to reach the minimum ideal allocation of 2.5 per cent GDP, nearly Rs 3 lakh crore will have to be allotted to the sector.
According to the association, at least Rs 1,60,000 crore was needed to provide effective care under Ayushman Bharat, the Centre’s healthcare scheme, and the amount currently provided for it was “gross underfunding”.
Over 80 per cent of the 20,000 hospitals in Ayushman Bharat are government hospitals, said Dr Sharma. The IMA also expressed its disagreement with “back-door corporatisation” of civil hospitals and demanded that the government revisit this decision. Health cess on imported medical equipment was a bad idea and it would have an impact on the cost and quality of tertiary healthcare, the statement added.
Dr Anant Phadke, one of the coordinators of the Jan Arogya Abhiyaan, in a statement also said while some measures like allocation of funds for elimination of TB were welcome, the overall Union Budget was disappointing and wouldn’t meet the needs of the sector.
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