HindustanTimes Fri,19 Dec 2014
All eyes on finance minister
Abhijit Patnaik, Hindustan Times
February 25, 2013
First Published: 23:32 IST(25/2/2013)
Last Updated: 12:51 IST(26/2/2013)
Union home minister P Chidambaram arrives at his office after meeting Congress President, Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi.

If one were to pick the most important thing on the minds of CEOs days before UPA-II's final budget, it's Fiscal Responsibility. Don't overspend, keep the budget deficit in check, don't crowd out private investment. And while you're juggling your resources to do just that, Mr Finance Minister, don't go overboard raising taxes either.

That's the message from the HT-MaRS pre-budget survey of over 40 CEOs, representing a random mix of small, medium and large-sized companies.

Most respondents have tempered their expectations of growth in the coming fiscal, with 62% saying it will be below 6%. The past year saw growth expectations being repeatedly adjusted downwards, and the overall sentiment, according to the survey, remains gloomy. "I am not that optimistic, but once investment picks up, the outlook for all sectors will change thereafter," said Mukul Kasliwal, Chairman, MW Corp, a power and infrastructure firm.

Given that this is the current government's last opportunity to show that it is serious about putting the economy back on the growth trajectory, industry heads surveyed said that infrastructure development, checking inflation and giving industrial growth an impetus should be the top priorities in this budget. Many have also called for the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax. "Implementation of GST in a committed time-frame will boost investor and business sentiment," said Meera Sanyal, Country Executive India, Royal Bank of Scotland.

Given the squandered opportunities in the past two years, do CEOs feel the government will use its last budget to announce populist schemes to gather votes for next year's general election? Not really. 62% CEOs said that budget measures have little impact on voters' decisions, while 24% sounded UPA-II's death knell, saying that irrespective of the budget, the Congress-led government will find it difficult to return to power. "Most of the challenges for the country were self-made due to lack of leadership in firmly dealing with the issues in the past few years. After Mr Chidambaram took over, there is an urgency in dealing with critical issues facing the economy," said V Balakrishnan, board member and ex-CFO, Infosys.

Televison channels and newspaper offices may be abuzz this week, leaving no stone unturned in deciphering every word Chidambaram says on Thursday, but how important is the budget for industrialists? Over half the respondents said that neither are they planning to put off any major investment decisions, nor will the budget impact hiring or salary related calls for them. Heck, a fifth of CEO's won't even watch the budget speech!

There have been growing calls across the globe for raising taxes on the rich. Wipro Chairman Azim Premji has been one of the rare Indian voices backing such proposals. 62% of survey respondents do no support any increase in taxes. "The FM can definitely consider taxing rich farmers and large landowners," said  Kasliwal, hinting that expanding the tax base is a better option. Ajay Shriram, chairman & senior managing director, DCM Shriram Consolidated Ltd and vice-president, CII also supports expanding the tax base. "In a country of 1.2 billion, having only 1.4 million tax payers with income above Rs. 10 lakh (and only 4 lakh assessees with income above Rs. 20 lakh) seems really low!" he said. CEOs have also given a big thumbs down to more subsidies or welfare schemes which drain the exchequer.

(With inputs from Zehra Kazmi)

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Highlights: Budget 2013  »

  • Expect higher revenue next year: Chidambaram
  • Unclear what the expense on food subsidies be at this stage: Chidambaram
  • Fuel subsidy likely to be lower this year: Chidambaram
  • Immediate goal is to achieve growth rate of 6%: Chidambaram
  • We have to be patient and wait for the economy to pick up: Chidambaram
  • We have not put impossible burdens on people: Chidambaram
  • The only way to contain current account deficit is to increase exports: Chidambaram
  • Confident that RBI will do it's part: Chidambaram
  • Economy is challenged in a number of ways: Chidambaram
  • This is a lollypop election budget: CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta
  • Budget has ignored SC/ST: Mayawati
  • Budget will only benefit industrialists, not common man: Mayawati
  • Budget will give impetus to Bihar's demand for special status: Nitish Kumar
  • FM has taken important steps to reverse pessimistic mood with regard to our economy: PM
  • There is need to convert challenges into opportunities: PM
  • The Finance Minister has done a commendable job: PM
  • Direct Benefit Transfer scheme to be rolled out
  • Ships and vessels exempted from excise duty
  • Direct tax code to be introduced in budget session of the Parliament
  • Set-top box import duty hiked
  • Gold duty limit raised to Rs. 50,000 for men; Rs. 1 lakh for women
  • 100% customs duty on luxury cars
  • Increase in import duty on high end bikes from 75% to 100%
  • 6% duty on mobile phones worth more than Rs. 2000
  • Excise duty on cigarette, cigar and cheeroot increased by 18%
  • Import duty on raw silk hiked to 15%
  • Luxury imported items to cost more
  • Donations to National Children's fund will be eligible for 100% tax deduction
  • No plans to revise direct taxes
  • No change in customs and excise duty
  • Tax credit of Rs. 2000 for those with income upto Rs. 5 lakh
  • Education cess at 3%
  • donations to be tax free
  • Surcharge of 10% on individuals, companies whose income is above Rs. 1 crore per year
  • No revision in tax slabs
  • Planned expenditure to be 33% of total expenditure
  • Rs. 1,000 crore allocated to women safety fund
  • Defence budget allocation increased to Rs. 2 lakh crore
  • Insurance and pension funds can now directly invest in debt funds
  • Domestic workers, Anganwadi workers, others to get group insurance
  • 13 public sector banks to get Rs. 14,000 crore
  • Propose to provide Rs. 14,000 cr for capital infusion in public sector banks
  • Inflation indexed bonds and NSCs to be introduced
  • JNNURM is being continued in the 12th Plan; Rs. 14,873 cr to be provided to the Mission
  • Rs. 33,000 crore to be allocated to MNREGA
  • Rs. 6000 crore for rural housing fund, Rs. 2000 cr for urban housing fund
  • Two new ports to be built in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh
  • All towns having population of 10,000 to get LIC office
  • Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna to be extended to rickshaw pullers and rag pickers
  • List of eligible securities will be enlarged: Chidambaram
  • SEBI to simplify procedures for entry of foreign portfolio investors in India: Chidambaram
  • India's first all-women public sector bank to be set up
  • All public sector bank branches to have ATMs
  • Focus on modernisation of powerloom sector
  • Propose to continue with the technology upgradation, funds scheme for textile sector: Chidambaram
  • Rs. 1650 cr allocated for AIIMS like institutes
  • Natural gas pricing policy will be reviewed: Chidambaram
  • Person taking home loan for the first time to get tax cut of Rs. 1 lakh
  • Regulatory authority to be set up for road sector
  • Rs. 17,700 crore to be allocated for Integrated Child Development Scheme
  • Rs. 5000 cr allocated to NABARD
  • Income level of Rajiv Gandhi equity schemes increased by Rs. 2 lakh
  • Rs. 80, 194 crore allocated for rural development: Chidambaram
  • Rs. 25,000 cr to be raised through tax free bonds: Chidambaram
  • Rs. 10,000 crore for food security bill promised by UPA: Chidambaram
  • Infrastructure debt fund to be encouraged: Chidambaram
  • Rs. 37,330 cr allocated to ministry of health and family welfare: Chidambaram
  • Rs. 41,000 allocated for scheduled caste welfare: Chidambaram
  • Rs. 27,49 cr to be allocated to the agriculture ministry: Chidambaram
  • Plan expenditure in 12th Five Year Plan revised to Rs. 14,30,825 cr or 96% of budgeted expenditure
  • Scholarships for students from SC/ST, minority communities: Chidambaram
  • Rs. 110 cr to be allocated to department of disability: Chidambaram
  • Increased allocation for safe drinking water and sanitation: Chidambaram
  • Increased allocation for mid-day meal schemes: Chidambaram
  • Rs. 65,000 cr allocation for education schemes: Chidambaram
  • Rs. 110 cr to be allocated to department of disability: Chidambaram
  • Need $ 75 billion to bridge current account deficit: Chidambaram
  • 2013-14 budget has sub-plans for SC, ST, youth and women: Chidambaram
  • Foreign investment imperative for growth: Chidambaram
  • Our economy has slowed down after 2010: Chidambaram
  • No choice but to cut spendings to control inflation: Chidambaram
  • China and Indonesia are growing faster than India: Chidambaram
  • Getting back to 8% growth is a challenge for country: Chidambaram
  • Our goal is higher growth: Chidambaram
  • Between 2004-2008 and again in 2009-10, 2010-11 the growth rate was over 8%: Chidambaram
  • P Chidambaram begins budget address in Lok Sabha
  • Cabinet endorses Union Budget 2013-14, to be presented in Parliament shortly.
  • Finance minister P Chidambaram reaches North Block.
  • Chidambaram set to present India's 82nd national budget.
  • Today's Union Budget will be Chidambaram's eighth personal exercise.
  • It's two short of the record of 10 set by former PM Morarji Desai.
  • Since Independence, the country has seen a total of 25 ministers hold the finance portfolio.
  • India has also seen budgets - 65 normal annual budgets, 12 interim budgets and four mini-budgets.
  • Morarji Desai presented eight normal and two interim budgets.
  • Thursday will see Chidambaram equal the eight-budget track record of Pranab Mukherjee.
  • Chidambaram will surpass Yashwant Sinha, YB Chavan and CD Deshmukh who all presented seven budgets each.
  • PM Manmohan Singh and TT Krishnamachari have presented six budgets each.
  • Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi have presented one budget each.
  • Sensex closed up more than half a percent a day before the union budget 2013-14
  • It will be the eighth such personal exercise for him
  • Chidambaram set to present India's 82nd national budget in Lok Sabha


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