Mumbai Mirror's panel of experts, from fields as diverse as finance, healthcare, markets and education, decode Arun Jaitley's Union Budget 2017.
The consensus among Mumbai Mirror's panelists was that the Union Budget 2017 was a good one overall. Mirror's panelists included experts from the fields of finance, education, healthcare, stock market, and transport among others.
While they pointed out the misses such as no lack of clarity on the implementation of GST, the panelists termed the budget a progressive exercise. "But surprisingly, there was no mention of the initiatives that were announced before such as 'Smart Cities' and 'Make in India'. What happens to them?" said Santosh Dalvi, partner (indirect tax), KPMG.
Kunal Bajaj, founder and CEO of clearfunds.com, an online investment advisor, said that finance minister Arun Jaitley presented a budget that did not offend anyone, especially after the government's demonetisation exercise. "In that regard, it has achieved its purpose. Hopefully, it has no unpleasant surprises hidden in the annexures." Several panelists praised the abolition of the Foreign Investment Promotion board, and said that there was no need for another layer of bureaucracy when it came to foreign direct investment.
Other moves that came in for praise from the panelists, apart from the cut in personal income tax, included enhanced digitisation; the Metro rail policy; the amendment in the drugs and cosmetics act; and the lowering of income tax for small companies with an annual turnover of less than ₹ 50 crore.
N SANTHANAM, CEO, Breach Candy Hospital
Several healthcare issues ignored
THE INCREASE in capital expenditure is welcome. But, as far as the healthcare sector is concerned, we are facing huge challenges. We need more hospitals, medical colleges, and healthcare professionals. An increase of five thousand additional medical seats is not sufficient. In 2014, the finance minister had announced four AIIMS hospitals and this year, too, there are two more in the list. But what happened to the announcements made in the past? At the same time, I'm happy that the government intends to eradicate tuberculosis by 2025.
DR. PM BHUJANG, medical director, Sir Harkisandas Hospital
Several healthcare issues ignored
THE GOVERNMENT'S plan to provide ₹ 6,000 to every pregnant woman; its intent to eradicate diseases such as TB, leprosy etc and to bring down the infant and maternal mortality rate is commendable. But the finance minister didn't address the issue of the shortage of nurses we are facing at the moment. The amendments in drugs and cosmetics act is a welcome move, as it will bring down the prices of drugs. But, I'm not so sure about tele-medicine. There are so many places in our country, which have no electricity.
CHANDRAHAS DESHPANDE, professor of economics, Welingkar Institute of Management
THIS IS a growth-enhancing, job-creating, investment sentiment-raising budget. Especially commendable is the fact that it more or less stuck to the fiscal deficit target of 3%.(In his speech, finance minister Arun Jaitley said the fiscal deficit for FY 2017-18 would be 3.2%, which would drop to 3% the following year.) As importantly, the finance minister projected the revenue deficit for FY 2017-18 at 1.9%, and the fact that it is being controlled is an indication that the government will have more money for capital expenditure. The continuing thrust on rural development is good, because this sort of investment (in all, ₹ 1,87,223 crore was allocated) is a precursor to private development. The private sector needs to be crowded in. When they see activity and investment taking place, then they will send their trucks. This will be triggered by this budget.
DR P C SEHGAL, former managing director, Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation
Will give Metro and rail safety a fillip
The Railways is both a commercial and social organisation. Due to the social burden, the Railways is unable to increase passenger fares, and therefore, it suffers huge losses every year, especially in the passenger sector. As a result, not enough money is available for safety works. The safety fund of ₹ 100,000 crore announced by the government will enable it to upgrade track, bridges, rolling stock, signal and telegram and other safety-related infrastructure. Removal of service tax on e-ticket and provision of bio-toilet on all trains is a good step as well. So is the proposed removal of all unmanned level crossings by 2020 on broad gauge, since it will enable Railways to the speed up trains and fuel consumption of road vehicles, too, will reduce. Standardisation of metro equipment and introduction of the new Metro rail policy will enable metro organisations to complete work quickly.>
SANTOSH DALVI, partner (indirect tax), KPMG
IT'S A GROWTH-ORIENTED budget with some relief for taxpayers. Necessary allocations have been made and some good initiatives have been announced. There were concerns that service tax would be raised to align with GST, but there was no such move. One would have to read the budget documents, which sometimes contain surprises. The corporate tax rate for large companies has not been reduced. There were expectations that the rate would be lowered to 25 per cent. There was no mention of the initiatives that were announced before such as 'Smart Cities'. There should have been a report card on their progress. I also think the finance minister could have done more for the salaried class. But the biggest disappointment was the lack of a clear cut road map on the date of implementation of GST. There were some misses, but overall, it's a fair budget.
KAVITA SANGHVI, principal, MET Rishikul Vidyalaya
Impressive, but several gaps still exist
THE BUDGET seems tailor-made for rural development, but we also need more trained teachers. At this point, the country needs around 86 thousand trained teachers. There seems to be no announcement about more institutes to train teachers. The entire structure of educational institutions is exam-oriented, so exactly how are you going to develop unique skills? Having a single national testing agency could be a good measure. It should have a pool of experts to be able to function smoothly. Overall the budget seems to have several important provisions for strengthening the accessibility to technology in rural areas. It's wonderful that the budget aims to build ICT skills, but the focus seems to be on higher education. Where are the provisions for primary education? Today, a child from Amravati has to come to Maharashtra for counselling. We need counselling centres, and mechanisms to cater to special education needs.
NEIL PARAG PARIKH, CEO, Parag Parikh Mutual Funds
Good news for markets
WHILE NO news is good news from a markets perspective, no long-term capital gains tax will definitely work well for the sector. However, it also has to be said that the market expected some tinkering with the definition of the tenure of longterm capital gains tax. In the short term, it sends a positive message but going forward, this will require clarity. I am sure it will make a comeback in the next two years. The fact that the FM has chosen not to tweak the securities transaction tax will also be well-received by the market. Abolition of the Foreign Investor Promotion Board is good news, and the government's decision to proceed with the exchange-traded funds, as a means to achieve its disinvestment target, is the right way forward. Overall, the FM couldn't afford to spook the markets since it is the only asset class that is currently doing well. With interest rates, and consequently, bank deposit rates expected to come down, the FM has stuck to this brief.
ABHISHAKE MATHUR, head of investment advisory, ICICI Securities
THE BUDGET was in line with expectations, and several steps have been taken to create infrastructure and jobs, especially in the rural areas, while maintaining fiscal balance. This, along with the reduction in interest rates because of the inflation as well as the demonetization move, should propel private investments. There is mention of a scheme with 8% returns for senior citizens. This is important, considering the low rate environment that adversely impacts retirees. The budget proposes to reduce the long term holding period for property to 2 years, which is a positive move. The FM has proposed to slash the tax rate for individuals in the lowest income tax slab - ₹ 2.5 lakh to ₹ 5 lakh - to 5% instead of 10%. This would put higher personal disposable income in the hands of the middle class. With the government focusing on tax compliance and disclosures, we will witness assets flowing into the formal capital markets as against being held in cash outside the banking system.
KUNAL BAJAJ, CEO and Co-founder, Clearfunds.com
A play-it-safe budget
THE CENTRAL theme seems to have been 'let's not offend anybody'. The finance minister has taken a low risk approach and appeased almost everyone. Banks: listing of securitized assets on the stock exchanges; Foreign investors: doing away with the FIPB, individuals: reduction in tax rates at the lower end, corporates: reduction of tax rates to 25% for firms with turnover less than ₹ 50 crore. The only people he has come down hard on are the 'scoundrels.' And his proposals to restrict and monitor donations to political parties will be cheered. The FM should have initiated stronger measures to clean up NPAs of the banking system. No tax on capital gains: despite all his comments on how the rich business and professional class is not paying enough tax, he has again gone after the salaried taxpayer and increased surcharge on incomes above ₹ 50 lakh. Instead, he should have taxed long term capital gains in equities (currently at 0%) above a certain amount, say, ₹ 25 lakhs a year.
NIKHIL BANERJEE, Co-founder, MintWalk
Market friendly budget
THE BUDGET day saw equity market volatility as the new announcements trickled in. Market players react compulsively to news flow. The key takeaway is if you are invested for the long term (1-10 years), you need not lose sleep on how the market behaved on the Budget day. The Budget day is a really bad predictor of future performance. There are a multitude of other factors like GDP growth over long term, corporate earnings growth, and industrial cycles, which play a stronger role on your portfolio performance than the announcements made on the Budget Day. Specific to the Budget, the finance minister's move of a ₹ 12,500 benefit to all taxpayers in the > ₹ 5 lakhs slab can be utilized smartly. That sum if invested in Mutual Funds for 30 years can yield ₹ 3.75 lakhs (30x) at a reasonable 12% returns.
ROHIT PODDAR, MD, Poddar Housing
A leg up for affordable housing
THE FACT that affordable housing has been given infrastructure status is an interesting, growth-oriented move. It will help projects get funded at cheaper rates- by banks and so on-and will also improve investments in this segment. There is also a proposal to create 1 crore houses for the poor by 2019, which is also commendable. As far as the announcement of carpet area of 30 to 60 sq meters being applicable now as against built-up area, this would apply for areas on the peripheries of the country's major metros, since it would be difficult to build an apartment of 30 sq m in the city.
SUMANA KHALID, homemaker
Implementation is key
THE BUDGET appeals to me as a homemaker. The finance minister has allocated funds for better healthcare, education and housing facilities. It also plans to promote women entrepreneurs through various schemes. The most commendable thing about the budget is that it aims to lift 1 crore families out of poverty. Complete rural electrification, the finance minister says, shall be achieved by May 2018. All these steps are in the best interest of the people, women included. If there is general economic development, all sections of society stand to benefit from it. But regarding how these plans are implemented, we will have to wait and watch.
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