Whether Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram finally puts the suggestions to practice will only be known on February 28 but one thing he cannot be accused of is not trying to evolve a consensus, at least on paper, on budget 2007.
Chidambaram has written to the Parliamentary leaders of the Left parties in both houses of the Parliament, inviting views, suggestions and proposals on the budget.
Not only has Chidambaram asked the Members of Parliament for their party’s priorities and concerns on the budget, he has also invited individual suggestions. "If you wish, you may also kindly send me your suggestions separately, and I assure you they will receive my consideration," Chidambaram wrote.
The suggestions and proposals would come up for discussion on February 2 at the Ministry of Finance’s Parliamentary Consultative Committee meeting on the subject 'Suggestions for Budget 2007-08'. The participating MPs are expected to raise their concerns at the meeting.
"The guidance that would flow from these deliberations is expected to be of immense value for the budget making exercise," the Finance Minister has assured the Parliamentarians.
The Communist Party of India (CPI) was quick to react to the invitation and responded with a set of preliminary suggestions. One proposal the Finance Minister should consider was about constituting an 'infrastructure development fund' with the money that has piled up in the Employee’s Provident Fund (EPF) and Pension Funds, said CPI’s leader in the Lok Sabha, Gurudas Das Gupta on Tuesday.
Das Gupta said that Rs 1 lakh 40,000 crores and Rs 70,000 crores had accumulated in EPF and Pension Funds respectively. "Then there is the exempted provident fund, which has Rs 11 lakh crores. All this money can be invested for social welfare, job creation and building infrastructure. As the funds are perpetual, the money can also sustain the 8.5 per cent EPF interest rate besides being used for development," Das Gupta said.
Das Gupta added that the CPI wants a "bigger budget" this year. "Usually, the budget is of Rs 6 lakh crore. We want it to be increased to Rs 7 to 8 lakh crore," the CPI leader said.
One resource mobilisation, he said that the richer should be taxed more. More taxes should be levied on "the individual having more than Rs 10 lakh income per year, tax on transactions in the stock market, introduction of capital gains tax, tax on private schools and private hospitals as also more tax on air travel," Das Gupta wrote.
Forward Bloc’s leader in Rajya Sabha, Debabrata Biswas said that though he had received the letter, his party’s views would be communicated in the budget note being prepared jointly by the four left parties.