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Budget: Will it usher in speedy recovery for India?

June 29, 2009 18:31 IST

How the Government uses Union Budget to usher in speedy recovery for India and at the same time balance the fisc, which is slowly going out of proportions, remains to be seen

Union Budget 2009-10 comes at an opportune time for the New Government. The stake holders expects the New government to spell out its priorities -- be it to spur the economy from the current sluggishness, or to promote inclusive growth, or to contain the alarmingly high and rising fiscal deficit, or perhaps a good blend of all these!

India's GDP growth has been decelerating from robust 9.7 per cent in FY 2006-07 to 9.05 in FY 2007-08, which has further come down to mere 6.7 per cent in FY 2008-09. Consider the fact that the agriculture sector (including forestry and fishing), after robust 10.0 per cent growth in FY 2003-04 has witnessed mere 4.9 per cent growth in FY 2007-08, which has further come down to mere 2.6 per cent in FY 2008-09.

While India's overall performance is definitely better than most advanced countries, still a country like India with over 60 per cent of the population depending on agriculture has to accelerate growth, if it has to achieve inclusive growth with reasonable equity.

India's global competitiveness is low partly due to high cost associated with inadequate infrastructure and very high transaction costs. The investments required for infrastructure runs into billions of dollars for decades together, if India were to sustainably extract economy gains and improve its global competitiveness.  While India's savings are relatively healthy, they have not been properly channeled, and there is high cost of intermediation.

Also, the debt market is very nascent.  As a result, part of the risk capital has to be raised overseas. This requires opening up of the economy further, relaxation of FDI norms and simplification of the procedures thereof.

Also, the unemployment rate has gone up, especially since the second half of FY 2008-09. The problem was more pronounced in the export oriented sectors like textiles, gems and jewelry etc and also in small and medium enterprises.  So, there is a need for the government to improve India's global competitiveness, which will help restrict unemployment problems in export-oriented sectors.

The exports sector is seeking exemption of fringe benefit tax and extension of tax benefits to Export Oriented Units as well as additional interest subsidy on loans for the textile sector. Also, it can spur economic growth through forward and backward linkages.

The United Progressive Alliance has significantly improved its tally and wrested a clear majority, contrary to expectations of hung parliament.  The focus on Aam Aadmi has raised the lower and middle class population's expectations in the recent times on hopes that the government will take initiatives for better future.

India has successfully brought down fiscal deficit (as a per cent of GDP) consistently from 5.9 per cent in 2002-03 to relatively lower 2.7 per cent in 2007-08. But the gains could not be held, as the government's tax revenues were below expectations, and over and above that it had to launch three stimulus packages and incur additional expenditure to stimulate the economic growth amidst global economic slowdown.

As a result the fiscal deficit to GDP ratio for 2008-09 more than doubled to 6.2 per cent. If no further economic stimulus packages are announced, then also the fiscal deficit could be as high 5.5 per cent in 2009-10, but if government offers more stimulus package and tax cuts, the fiscal deficit may scale up further.

With the rising fiscal gap, the governments gross market borrowing more than doubled to Rs 331771 crore (Rs 3317.71 billion) in 2008-09 and is projected to increase further to Rs 361782 crore (Rs 3,617.82 billion) in current fiscal. Depending on the measures to be unveiled in the Budget, the actual borrowings for the current fiscal may change significantly.

As per Interim Union Budget 2009-10, the revenues from divestment of equities in PSUs have been tumbling down from Rs 38796 crore (Rs 387.96 billion) 2007-08 to Rs 2567 crore or Rs 25.96 billion) (2008-09 RE). Meanwhile, it has planned to raise mere 1120 crore (Rs 11.2 billion) during 2009-10.  But now that the UPA government enjoys majority without Left parties support, it is hoped that the PSU divestment revenues can be substantially higher from the current fiscal. 

We find that the Government can raise over Rs 4 lakh crore (Rs 4 trillion), by divesting its stake in excess of 51per cent in only 11 firms namely – MMTC, NMDC, NTPC, ONGC, SAIL, IOCL, BHEL, PowerGrid Corporation, Hindustan copper, State Bank of India and Neyveli Lignite Corporation. 

There are many other listed gems in the Government's forte including Power Finance Corporation, NALCO, REC, HMT, Bharat Electronics, various PSU banks, Oil PSUs, Gail, Engineers India, a few fertilizer companies, Shipping Corporation, Container Corporation etc.  In addition, there are various blue chip unlisted PSUs like BSNL, Coal India and its subsidiaries, RINL, Oil India, General and Life Insurance companies etc, where some minority stake can fetch another few lakh crore.

So, if the government wants to bring down the fiscal deficit, amongst others, there is tremendous potential to raise funds from divestment of stake in various listed and unlisted PSUs, and still retain their PSU tag, if required.

Infrastructure

Infrastructure continues and to continue to be one of the thrust areas for Government of India as it being one of the tool to put the economy on sound economic growth.

The Eleventh five-year plan (2007-12) envisaged that infrastructure investment would reach 9per cent of GDP by 2012.  However there are too many obstacles on speedy development of infrastructure from adequate funds at reasonable cost, land acquisitions, absence of reliable basis information on the usage of the infrastructure projects etc apart from usual delay in project conceptual development and award to developer. 

Current Liquidity crunch though pinches all the industries, given high capital intensive and long gestation period of infra projects the easy availability of funds has been crucial for the pace of development of infra projects.

The government should introduce secondary market for debt trading, which enable the private players in infra space to raise money through long-term corporate bonds.

Given the slow pace of infra development the country should set up National Infrastructure Facilitation & Monitoring Agency to monitor and facilitate implementation of 30-40 infrastructure projects of national importance.

Allowing pension funds to invest about 10-15 per cent of the funds in infra bonds as well as allocation of proceeds from divestment of PSUs will help to bridge the huge funding gap for infrastructure development.

Sectoral and group exposure limits for banks which often curtails their lending and hence exempting the banks from this exposure limits will facilitate more funding for infra projects.

Allow domestic infrastructure development companies to refinance existing rupee loans through ECBs.

Exempt the infrastructure holding companies from usual NBFC restrictions, which affect their functioning. 

Introduction of interest gap funding scheme for PPP projects in infrastructure for limited period say 1 year will encourage more participation for such kind of projects.

Chlor Alkali

Caustic soda, chlorine, soda ash are the major products produced by Chlor alkali sector, which is highly power intensive.  Hence, the chlor alkali producers have sought various measures that could help reduce the cost of power generation of the captive power plants of its members.  Industry expects

Removal of import duty on all capital goods used for small and medium power projects, which is currently 7.5per cent.

Allocation of coal blocks to the caustic soda and soda ash industries.  Exemption of customs duty on furnace oil, Low Sulphur Heavy Stock, High Speed Diesel etc from 5per cent at present.  These are used as feedstock by captive power plants.

In addition it seeks the Central government to put a cap on various taxes and levies by the State Government on captive power generation and also on the feedstock used and to make them Vatabale.

Cut customs duty on spare parts used for superior membrane cell technology to 5per cent from current 7.5per cent.

Textiles

Indian Textile Industry was one of the hard hit industries by the global economic melt down. While Indian cotton yarn sector is relatively stronger, the MMF sector has significant untapped potential. 

  • Exemption of excise duty and customs duty on manmade fibres and their intermediate.
  • Enhancement of duty draw back rates for the entire range of textiles and to exempt textile sector from all service charges.
  • Removal of excise and customs duty on liquid fuels used as feedstock for captive power plants. 
  • Rescheduling of loans by permitting deferment on repayment of principal amounts for 8 quarters on condition that the interest will continue to be paid during this period; and extension of repayment period beyond 10 years under TUFS scheme.
  • Refunding all accumulated cenvat credit and increase 2per cent interest subvention to 4per cent by extending the period un till March 2010.
  • Seeks medium term policies like, including the formulation of comprehensive Fibre Policy to ensure availability of raw material (especially cotton and polyester) at competitive prices.
  • Further, address long term concerns of the industry like, increasing flexibility for labour by extending contract labour, working hours and relaxing the norms of Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 with regards the number of workers.

Hotels

Indian Hospitality industry was battered global economic slowdown and the terrorist attack in the Mumbai on 26th November 2008. Since then, the industry's Average Room Rents and Occupancy rates have come down significantly, affecting the industry's revenues and profits. But the country cannot be complacent about current low occupancy rates because India has the potential to witness 10 million foreign tourist arrivals and 500 million domestic tourists per year in medium term. 

If this materialises, then there will shortage of 150000 rooms with current capacity of 120000 rooms over the country.  To bridge this gap, the industry needs an investment of Rs 50000 crore. With funds becoming scarce and profits having dwindled, the industry is seeking helping hand from GOI to and uplifts the sector from down trend.

Grant infrastructure status both by the banking sector (lower interest rates) and as per Income tax act (lower income tax incidence). 

Exemption of excise duty on supply of food preparations (as part of their food and beverage services) by hotels or restaurants to their by guest (staying in the relevant hotel).

Also, Hotels and Restaurants with turnover less than Rs 1.50 crore (Rs 15 million) should be exemption from paying central Excise duty on the products produced and consumed within the premises.

Extension tax holiday scheme of 5 years to all categories of hotels including those of 5 star hotels, especially in Delhi and NCR region to speed up addition of hotel rooms, which are needed for Commonwealth Games of 2010. 

Banks

There is intense debate on consolidating of Public Sector banks, and banks would prefer some cues from the Union Budget on this front. Also liberalisation of branch regulations giving banks greater flexibility and increasing their presence in rural and semi-urban areas would be the other key area of focus.

The wish list also seeks enactment of the Banking Regulation Amendment Bill, 2005 that look for regulating acquisition of shares in banking companies, increase the flexibility on statutory liquidity requirements and allow banks to lend to companies in which their Directors are engaged.

RBI and the Government are keen on bringing down the Interest rate regime in the country.  But banks are of the view that they cannot bring down interest on deposits significantly lower than the interest on Small Savings.  They felt that there could be flight of deposits from the banking sector to Small savings if the interest on the former is lower. 

So, considering the general reduction in interest rates sofar, the Banking Sector wants the interest on small savings to be brought down, to facilitate banks to replicate the same in deposits and advances further.  In addition, if this move helps improve deposits further, it could also lead to increased investment in g-secs, and improve treasury income of banks in general and PSU banks in particular.

Gems and Jewellery

The glitter in the Gems and Jewellery sector went away, despite being India's one of the most important export oriented sector, due to fall in demand in advanced markets of US and European Union.  Hence Gem and Jewellery industry seeks

  • To increase liquidity in to the Industry and improving domestic funding at competitive rates as against high rates charged by the banks at present.
  • Introduction of Presumptive Tax / Turnover Tax.
  • Export income to be made tax-free for two years.
  • Need Duty Drawback Scheme for Gold.
  • Introduction of National Skilled Manufacturing Employment Guarantee Scheme (NSMEGS) for welfare of workers.

Tyres

Tyre Industry, represented by Automotive Tyre manufacturing Association seeks

  • Cut customs duty on the Natural rubber, from existing 20per cent to 7.50per cent or alternatively, increase customs duty on tyres from existing 10per cent to 20per cent. 
  • Asked to wavier of Anti dumping duty on all key raw materials and select machinery of tyre industry, viz. Nylon Tyre Cord Fabric, Rubber Chemicals, ethylene propylene diene rubber (EPDM), Carbon Black, Tyre Curing Presses etc.
  • Removal of customs duty on raw materials like Butyl Rubber, Polyester Tyre cord, Styrene Butadiene Rubber, chloro / bromo Butyl rubber etc and on Tyre manufacturing machinery.
  • Cut in customs duties on inputs like Nylon Tyre cord, Poly Butadiene Rubber and Steel Tyre cord from existing 10per cent to 5per cent each and on Rubber chemicals from existing 7.5per cent to 2.5per cent.
  •  'Excise rebate' on domestically manufactured radial truck & bus tyres.

Pharmaceuticals

Indian pharmaceutical industry has received major relief in the stimulus packages announced on 8th December 2008 and 24th February 2009 i.e. reduction in excise duty on formulation from 8 per cent to 4 per cent and on bulk drugs from 14 per cent to 8 per cent.

  • Removal of excise duty and custom duty on bulk drugs and formulation of life saving drugs like Anti Cancer, Anti TB etc, 
  • Fully exemption of Custom duty for import of all capital goods, raw materials, consumables and reference standards for R & D purposes.

Cement

The Indian cement sector laments that the total government levies and taxes on cement constitute more than 60per cent of the ex-factory cost as against average tax of 11.4per cent in the Asia Pacific region.

Currently differential rates of excise duty are applicable on bagged cement based on the retail prices. For e.g. For retail sale price not exceeding Rs 190 per 50 kg the excise duty is Rs 230 per tonne and for retail sale price exceeding Rs 190 per 50 kg it is 8per cent of the sale price. For institutional sale, it is 8per cent of the sale price or Rs 230 per tonne whichever is higher.

The cement industry seeks to remove differential rate structure and to introduce a uniform rate of excise duty.  It also seeks an abatement of 55 per cent on Retail Selling Price for excise duty levy.

  • Currently differential rates of excise duty are applicable on bagged cement based on retail prices. Now industry expects to remove differential rate structure and to introduce a uniform rate of excise duty.
  • Abatement of 55per cent on Retail Selling Price for excise duty.
  • Cut state VAT on cement & clinker to 4per cent in line with steel.
  • Royalty of Rs 45 per tonne paid on Limestone be reduced. Also the royalty paid on limestone be allowed as credit-either as Cenvat credit or as VAT credit.
  • Import duty on major inputs like coal, PET coke and gypsum to be reduced to zero from the present level of 5per cent.
  • Re-imposition of CVD and SAD on import of cement in order to provide a level playing field to the domestic producers.
  • Supply of Fly Ash at free of cost.
  • Waste heat recovery based cogeneration be treated at par with renewable energy.

Soaps and Detergent

Cut the customs duty on non-edible industrial grade oils to 5per cent.  Currently, it varies from 12.5per cent for Crude Palm Kernel Oil, 10per cent for Crude Palm Stearin and 15per cent for Palm Fatty Acid distillate

  • Cut customs duty on soap noodles from 10 per cent

Plastic Products

  • Removal of custom duty on commodity plastics polymers from 5per cent and on other polymers from 7.5per cent to 2.5 per cent.
  • Needs withdrawal of 1 per cent landing charges for duty calculation and removal of anti-dumping duty on polymers.
  • Expects custom duty on processes plastic products to be increased from 10 per cent to 20 per cent.
  • As many of the units in the industry are small and medium players, the industry want concessional rate of excise duty at 60per cent of applicable duty, be reinstated for small-scale industry with appropriate lines.
  • Looks for uniform VAT in all states, abolition of central sales tax and removal of FBT on the units with less than Rs 50 crore turnover.

Crude Oil producers

India imports more than 70per cent of its crude oil requirements, and they constitute almost 26per cent of its merchandise imports. So, there is urgent need to scale up oil and gas exploration activities in India, considering the growing domestic need, and to contain the over dependence on imports.

  • Expects extension of tax holiday for Oil exploration companies from seven years to ten years with an option to choose out of the initial 15 years from the start of production.
  • Exemption of oil and gas profits from minimum alternate tax
  • The industry also wishes extension of tax holiday benefit to find and sale of Natural gas, which is currently available for crude oil.

Crude oil Refineries

Indian refining sector is a net exporter, and aims to become the refining hub for the global market. Meanwhile, the government had in earlier notifications had reduced customs duty on crude to NIL from 5per cent, customs duty on petrol and diesel to 2.5per cent from 7.5per cent and excise duty on branded petrol and branded diesel by Re1 per litre. So there is no specific demand with respect to duty.

  • Excise duty on Naphtha to be at par with general CENVAT rule.
  • Exemption of excise duty for captive consumption of intermediate products within the refinery for manufacture of exempted products.
  • Extension of depreciation benefits available to pollution control equipment to capital investments made by refineries for producing fuels with stringent emission norms. Also industry wants NCCD (National Calamity Contingent Duty) and cess thereon be abolished.
  • Currently, 8 refineries in the public sector which are eligible for this tax holiday if they refining after 31st March 2009 but on or before 31st March 2012. Expects extension of tax holiday to refineries in the private sector.

Auto

After severe unexpected downtrend in last quarter of calendar year 2008, automobile industry has made come back thanks to stimulus packages enforced by the government. With excise duty cut by 4per cent, 50per cent accelerated depreciation on new trucks and sanctioning bus purchases under JNNURM scheme, the total vehicle sales have sequentially stepped up from low of 735880 vehicles in December 2008 (down by 12per cent y-o-y) to 1049413 vehicles (8per cent y-o-y up) in May 2009.

Nevertheless, there are still pockets in the auto industry, which need support, and in fact revival in case of commercial vehicle especially the medium & heavy commercial vehicle.

  • Retain the excise duty on various vehicles at current level of 8per cent.
  • Encourage public sector banks to undertake retail financing in big way.
  • Extend 50per cent accelerated depreciation on new trucks for the whole of FY10.
  • Extend funding under JNNURM for city transport beyond June 2009.
  • Abolish fringe benefit tax.

Software

The Global turmoil has taken its toll on all the sectors with the most hit being the Software and Banking sectors. The Software sector, which is most dependent on exports for its revenues and that too more on North America for its revenues, has been marred by volume growth worries with US economy slowing down. Europe, which was believed to be the replacement for North America has also seen a slowdown.

  • Expects extension of tax exemption for STPs to continue for another 10 years.

The Interim budget had indicated amendment in Section 10AA of Income Tax Act, 1961 regarding the anomaly in calculation of SEZ export profits. Currently, SEZ export profits are required to be computed with reference to the total turnover of the assessee, creating a discriminatory structure. The industry recommends that the necessary changes in the Act need to be implemented.

Steel

  • Raise customs duty on steel and steel products from 5per cent to 15per cent
  • Hike export tax on iron ore
  • Seeks indirect demand push through fiscal benefits for user industries like real estate, auto / auto ancillaries, white goods etc

Paper

  • Impose 20per cent safeguard duty on select varieties of paper falling under HS Codes 4802 and 4810 of Chapter 48 of customs tariff manual.
  • Enhance the peak rate of basic custom duty from 10per cent to 15per cent on paper/paperboards and also re-introduce component of special additional duty.
  • Cut customs duty on import of wood pulp, waste paper and coal, which are the inputs to industry.
  • Restore OGL status for import of Recyclable Waste Paper free from impractical conditions that impair import.

Cenvat credit accumulation happens when excise duty collected on finished products is less than the excise duty paid on inputs.   The paper sector seeks accumulated Cenvat Credit be permitted to set-off against any other Central levies viz. custom duty on imports, minimum alternative tax, income tax etc

Alternatively, Government can issue bonds similar to oil bonds to the extent of un-utilized Cenvat Credit which companies can sell in the market and after completion of a period of two years as envisaged under the Excise Rules, the remaining Cenvat Credit may be refunded to the concerned manufacturing units in cash.

Restore depreciation rate for Income Tax purposes to the earlier rate of 25per cent.

Disband the multiplicity of DEPB rates and rationalize and apply a uniform DEPB rate of around 12per cent to all varieties of paper / paper boards.

Retail

  • Recognise Retail as an industry
  • Allow FDI in retail sector.  This will help improve productivity and the distribution system of retail industry through modern retailing format. The current distribution system is a big bottleneck to increasing GDP and growing consuming mass. Need to ensure efficient 'farm-to-fork' system. This would require huge capital, international know-how and best practices.
  • Expects some softening in the local taxes
  • Abolish service tax on rentals for property. This would enable retailers for expanding their operation freely reaching out to their audience without much difficulty.

We expect strong thrust on infrastructure, and a road map for General Sales Tax, which will be single tax combining Central Excise Duties and State VAT.  But no major changes in the customs / excise duties across the board are expected, considering the already low levels they are in, and in view of the revenue considerations.

While the industry clamours for tax breaks and incentives, the fisc is in a precarious position due to sluggishness in tax collections and huge and rising fiscal deficit. How Pranab Mukerjee is going to balance the aspirations of poor, industry and still ensure that the fisc does not go out of balance remains to be seen.

Finances of Indian Government at a Glance

 

Var. (%)

Rs Crore

2000-01

2001-02

2002-03

2003-04

2004-05

2005-06

2006-07

2007-08

2008-09 (BE)

2008-09 (RE)

2008-09 Prov

2009-10 (BE)

2008-09

2009-10

1.    Revenue Receipts

192605

201306

230834

263813

305991

347077

434387

541925

602935

562173

544651

609551

0.5

11.9

2.    Tax Revenue (net to Centre)

136658

133532

158544

186982

224798

270264

351182

439547

507150

465970

447726

497596

1.9

11.1

3.    Non-tax Revenue

55947

67774

72290

76831

81193

76813

83205

102378

95785

96203

96925

111955

-5.3

15.5

4.    Capital Receipts (5+6+7)

132987

161004

182414

207390

192261

158661

149000

170807

147949

338780

336818

343680

97.2

2.0

5.    Recoveries of   Loans

12046

16403

34191

67165

62043

10645

5893

5100

4497

9698

6158

9725

20.7

57.9

6.    Other Receipts

2125

3646

3151

16953

4424

1581

534

38795

10165

2567

546

1120

-98.6

105.1

7.    Borrowings and other Liabilities

118816

140955

145072

123272

125794

146435

142573

126912

133287

326512

330114

332835

160.1

0.8

8.    Total Receipts  (1+4)

325592

362310

413248

471203

498252

505738

583387

712732

750884

900953

881469

953231

23.7

8.1

9.    Non-plan Expenditure 

242923

261116

301778

348923

365960

365100

413527

507650

507498

617996

606019

668082

19.4

10.2

10.   On Revenue Account of which,

226763

239811

267144

283436

296835

327518

372191

420922

448352

561790

556521

599736

32.2

7.8

11.   Interest Payments

99314

107460

117804

124088

126934

132630

150272

171030

190807

192694

190485

225511

11.4

18.4

12.   On Capital Account

16160

21305

34634

65487

69125

37582

41336

86728

59146

56206

49498

68346

-42.9

38.1

13.   Plan Expenditure

82669

101194

111470

122280

132292

140638

169860

205082

243386

282957

275450

285149

34.3

3.5

14.   On Revenue Account

51076

61657

71569

78638

87494

111858

142418

173572

209767

241656

235176

248349

35.5

5.6

15.   On Capital Account

31593

39537

39901

43642

44798

28780

27442

31510

33619

41301

40274

36800

27.8

-8.6

16.   Total Expenditure      (9  + 13)

325592

362310

413248

471203

498252

505738

583387

712732

750884

900953

881469

953231

23.7

8.1

17.   Revenue Expenditure (10 + 14)

277839

301468

338713

362074

384329

439376

514609

594494

658119

803446

791697

848085

33.2

7.1

18.   Capital Expenditure   (12 + 15)

47753

60842

74535

109129

113923

66362

68778

118238

92765

97507

89772

105146

-24.1

17.1

19.   Revenue Deficit         (17  - 1)

85234

100162

107879

98261

78338

92299

80222

52569

55184

241273

247046

238534

369.9

-3.4

20.   Fiscal Deficit     {16-(1+5+6)}

118816

140955

145072

123272

125794

146435

142573

126912

133287

326515

330114

332835

160.1

0.8

21.   Primary Deficit (20-11)

19502

33495

27268

-816

-1140

13805

-7699

-44118

-57520

133821

139629

107324

-416.5

-23.1

Revenue Deficit (-) as a % of GDP*

-4.1

-4.4

-4.4

-3.6

-2.5

-2.6

-1.9

-1.1

-1.0

-4.5

-4.6

-4.0

 

 

Fiscal Deficit (-) as a % of GDP*

-5.7

-6.2

-5.9

-4.5

-4.0

-4.1

-3.5

-2.7

-2.5

-6.1

-6.20

-5.5

 

 

Primary Deficit (-) as a % of GDP*

-0.9

-1.5

-1.1

0.0

0.0

-0.4

0.2

0.9

1.1

-2.5

-2.6

-1.8

 

 

GDP at Current Prices

2102314

2278952

2454561

2754620

3149407

3586743

4129173

4723400

5321753

5321753

5321753

6021426

 

BE represents Budget Estimates as per Interim Union Budget; Provisional data are from Controller General of Accounts; Figures in Rs crore

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