Swallowing the “bitter pill” in terms of getting slaps of rail fare-petrol price hike, hoi polloi across the country have their favourite hobby-horses on budget—more in wallet or more from wallet.

Sandwiched between soaring expectations and boring economy, new Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has to walk the tight budget rope: striking balance between earning accolades from aam aadmi and reviving the crippling economy—a poor legacy from the UPA government.       

Jagran Post team has done extensive leg-works to read the minds of people from all walks of life.

FICCI for key politics, fiscal imperatives

Looking forward to renewed trust, sound governance and decisive actions as enabling factors to address the needs and aspirations of both the entrepreneurs and youth, FICCI unveils its wish list citing expectations from the upcoming Union Budget, assuming that it is a ripe opportunity to spell out key politics and fiscal imperatives.

“The Union Budget is a ripe opportunity to spell out key policies, fiscal imperatives and plans for implementation, the interim weeks must be liberally used by our leadership to project its vision and set a progressive tone and direction,” said FICCI president Sidharth Birla.
“We also hope to see measures on inflation mitigation and restoring confidence, besides road maps on job creation and national competitiveness,” he added.

Assuring the government of its untiring efforts and participation in developing concrete policies leading to job creation and growth across regions and sectors - particularly manufacturing, FICCI made certain suggestions via the agenda for ‘Enabling India’.


FICCI’s wish-list

The imperatives

•    Broad-based regular communication from the level of Prime Minister
•    Cabinet-led decision making with full authority and accountability
•    Roadmap to 8 percent growth by 2017 and 10 percent plus by 2020
•    Creation of a Food Inflation Response and Strategy Team (FIRST) under PMO
•    Outline National Agenda for Job Creation
•    Strong Centre-State linkages, greater decentralization for development

The much-needed
Mitigate Food Inflation :

•    De-list horticulture products from APMC Act
•    Higher Production/Productivity measures
•    Focus on post-harvest distribution infrastructure
•    Enhance milk production ('White Revolution')
•    Enhance fruit and vegetables production ('Rainbow Revolution'); use of arid land
Revenue / Expenditure Management

•    Goods and Services Tax (GST) in 2015
•    Revisit subsidies and revamp MNREGA (for asset creation)
•    Review Direct Taxes Code (DTC) – inter alia the need for conducive environment for taxpayers
Address Tax Environment

•    End tax adventurism
•    Resolve retrospective/capital raising related tax issues
•    Retrospective actions, if at all, must invariably favour the taxpayer
•    Rebated income-tax for small, start-up businesses linked to employment creation
Sustainable balance of payments

•    Resolve coal/iron ore impasse
•    Market based fuel pricing/tackle subsidies to curtail oil import impacts
•    Moderate import dependence for natural resources and commodities
•    Inspire FDI for exports, mitigate defence imports
Fast-Track project investments

•    Cabinet Committee on Investment (CCI) to continue with PMO monitoring it
•    Policies must balance between environment and development
•    Dispute resolution on natural resources to trigger investments
Accelerate infrastructure development

•    2-3 mega infra projects ( for example high speed passenger train corridors, pucca roads to each village)
•    Public Private Partnership (PPP) advisory unit to revive stalled projects
•    Large PPP infra projects to have pre-bid composite clearances
•    Privatization of ports
Improve governance

•    Review regulations to eliminate redundancy and control-orientation
•    Inter-ministerial coordination under an 'umbrella' structure (for example energy, infra, mining and steel)
•    States' flexibility on certain concurrent list subjects particularly labour and environment
•    Implement Damodaran Committee suggestions on ease-of-doing-business
•    Principles based on allocation of natural resources - no discretion
Economic diplomacy

•    Creation of 'Gateways for Global Capital' - East and West - FICCI offers to lead the concept
•    Green Channel priority to hi-tech and export oriented FDI
•    Involvement of states and Indian missions to enhance diplomacy initiatives
•    Critical review of FTA framework for greater market access
Dividend of better education and skill development

•    Development of faculty, digital learning, skills qualification framework, etc.


Affordable and accessible healthcare system

Dr KK Aggarwal, the president of Heart Care Foundation of India, said the Union Budget should ensure that every single individual in the country gets quality, affordable and accessible treatment irrespective of his class and status.

“Our basic demand from the budget is that everyone in the country with no exception whatsoever should get quality, affordable and accessible treatment. There are hospitals that charge you Rs 2,000 for a CT scan and there are some that will charge you Rs 10,000 for the same. Why is this disparity there? This should be removed as soon as possible,” he said.

“There should be a price control on certain basic treatment facilities. Like bypass surgeries should be affordable for everyone. It is impossible for a poor man to think of getting a bypass done even if it is the matter of his life and death,” Dr Aggarwal added.

CII stresses on need for fiscal discipline

The industry has a lot of expectations from Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, with the Confederations of Indian Industry (CII) seeking credibility, continuity and clarity from the Union Budget alongside stressing on the need for fiscal discipline.

The CII also pressed on the need to revitalise investors' confidence by early implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) for which there is need to ensure that the Constitution Amendment Bill does not have sectoral exemptions built into it.

CII president Ajay Shriram had in a recent meeting with the Finance Minister pushed for amendment in the Income Tax Act, which would promulgate the reversal of retrospective amendment and make all taxation prospective.

“At a time when the Indian economy is struggling to regain its growth momentum and investment sentiment is weak, frequent and retrospective changes in tax laws, which are ambiguous and open to wide interpretation, should be avoided to restore investor confidence,” Shriram said.

Shriram added that a fresh thinking on the Direct Tax Code is required, which would make it simple and exemption free, adding that a low tax framework for direct taxes should be evolved, going forward without looking at DTC as the base.  

The CII also strongly advocated exploring every non-tax revenue option for augmenting revenue while rationalizing non-productive expenditure to contain the fiscal deficit.

The industrial body has further sought reducing the threshold limit of CCI clearance from the current level of Rs 1,000 crore to Rs 500 crore to kick-start investment and move towards the virtuous cycle of growth.
Banking sector eyes policies to handle bad loans

India’s banking sector, which is caught in the cluster of Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) and bad loans, is looking forward to reformative policies that include measures which allow banks to have easier access to long-term funding and steady flow of long-term capital.

Expecting a healthy solution to the growing asset-liability mismatch in the banking industry, KK Sinha, a banker at United Bank of India (UBI), said, “We expect more effective measures for realization of bad loans and efficient NPA management.”

India’s banking sector is also facing another big problem of wage revision. The salary revision for bank employees is pending for two years now. Moreover, the talks over the grim issue are proceeding at a snail’s pace.

The need is expected for sustainable reforms in banking sector that leads to improvement in working ambience for the bankers.

Soaring expectations of Aam aadmi

Modi mentioned in his election speeches that a large chunk of Indian population is young and if proper education and skills are imparted to them, the nation can become superpower. Now, what measures this government is going to announce in the budget for education sector is something to be seen. But one thing is sure that the younger generation has lots of hope from the ‘comparatively younger’ Prime Minister.  

“We are a country of young citizens… I think the PM should increase fund allocation for education and create more educational institutions in India in order to provide world class education,” said Aakash, who is all set to take admission in honours course this year.

Apart from focusing on basic education, the government should also emphasize on providing better facilities for higher education.

Rajnish, an MBA student said, “In order to facilitate students who are from poor family in getting higher education, Narendra Modi-led government should make it more affordable. It should also provide education loan at lower interest rates.”

Another promise that Modi made during the election campaign was of controlling inflation. But the prices of staples likes onion and potatoes have risen unexpectedly within days of the BJP-led NDA taking charge at the Centre.

Satpal, a vegetable vendor in Delhi, said, “I hardly save Rs 3,500 per month and arranging both ends meet in this amount is an uphill task because of the inflation. Modi should bring down inflation and then only we will believe that ‘acche din aa gaye hain’ (good days have come).”

The rise in fuel and gas prices has hurt the common man’s pocket. The decision to deregulate petrol by the previous government seems to be a nightmare for the people.

“Farming is totally dependent on water and if it’s not going to rain properly then we have to switch to other means for getting water - like extracting it from ground. This is very costly because the motor and generators run on fuel and they are very expensive,” said Masuddin, a farmer.

“Modiji should provide fuel to farmers at subsidized rates as it will be of great help and we will be able to produce good quantity of crops,” he added.

The common man also wants the new government to provide some tax relaxation. “Inflation is sky rocketing, the prices of essentials items are soaring. We middle class people find it difficult to arrange everything for our family and then give so much of tax,” said Lalit Sharma, a real estate agent.

“The government should surely give some tax exemption. The exemption limit should be raised to at least Rs three lakh,” he added.

Salaried class: Inflation down, jobs up

As far as the salaried class is concerned, they are looking forward to the policies that lead to more job creation and long-term control over the sky-rocketing prices of essential commodities that is triggering inflation.
“Interest rate cut, more control over inflation and investment in infrastructure that drives more job creation is what we are expecting from the Finance Minister,” said Amar Kumar, who works as senior manager - projects software development - at American multinational company SunGard.

Harsh decisions for long-term benefits: Legal community

The legal community, which is expecting a good budget with long-term benefits for the common man, says there is a need to take some harsh decisions for long-term benefits.  

“This would be the first budget of the NDA government. We are expecting a good budget. The policies may not sound people-friendly initially but harsh decisions need to be taken for long-term benefits,” said AK Aggarwal, an advocate.

When asked about his expectation from Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s maiden budget, Aggarwal said, “Income tax slabs should be increased so that the salaried group especially the middle class can enjoy more tax rebates.”

Personal income tax is an important source of revenue for the government. There are reports that Modi-led government is mulling over raising the tax exemption limit from the existing Rs two lakh to Rs five lakh. According to experts, the increase in income tax slabs will lower tax outgo and increase disposable income.