Left to Govt: Don't be obsessed with growth rate
Upping their ante against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government, Left parties on Thursday asked it to do away with the "exorbitant" tax exemptions in special economic zones (SEZs), revise the tax structure and to provide more funds for welfare schemes.
They also asked the government not to be "obsessed" with the growth rate and instead the upcoming budget should concentrate on redistributing the benefits of growth to all sections of society, particularly the socio-economically weaker sections.
Criticising that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has not fulfilled the commitments it has given in the mutually agreed Common Minimum Programme - the agenda for governance - the four Left parties presented their wish list ahead of the coalition government's fourth budget presentation this month. Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left parties support the UPA government from outside.
"Budget 2008-09 should make wholehearted attempt in order to tackle the persisting problems faced by the people, the agrarian crisis, unemployment and price rise," CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat told reporters here at a press conference jointly addressed by the Left leaders.
"Resources have to be mobilized by taxing profits and capital gains, which are increasing at rates many times faster than the overall growth of national income," Karat said.
Despite the sharp divisions in the Left Front over the Communist-led government's industrial policies in West Bengal, where the differences took a bloody turn earlier this week after the police firing killed activists of one of its ally Forward Bloc, leaders of all the four parties were present at the press conference.
Although they expressed their unhappiness over the government's decision not to call them for a pre-budget discussion, like in the first two years of the UPA government, the leaders said they would attend the dinner hosted by the prime minister for the UPA and its allies Thursday night.
The Communists reiterated their long pending demand that the rich and the affluent sections as well as the corporate should be taxed more.
"Myriad tax concessions to corporates and affluent sections, which are nothing but subsidies to the rich, should be progressively eliminated in the backdrop of growing income inequalities."
The Left sought to constitute a Farmer's Debt Relief Commission and to write off debts for small and marginal farmers across the country. It also asked the government to raise the food subsidy, increase the allocation for health and education and other welfare schemes.
Karat said the government should now initiate its efforts to extend the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), which provides 100 days job for the able bodied person in rural families, to the urban areas too. The NREGA, which was introduced in 250 districts, will be extended to all rural districts from April 1 onwards.
"The re-introduction of the long-term capital gains tax and an increase in the rate of short-term capital gains tax will correct the anomaly in the taxation structure, which has led to inflows of speculative capital in the stock market causing high volatility," the Communists said.