In the run-up to the Union Budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and his colleague Nirmala Sitharaman are having endless rounds of meetings these days with various representatives of the economy. And without exception, the stakeholders, including farmers, trade unions, industry bodies, economists, finance experts, NGOs and finance ministers of states, are all seeking urgent steps to revive growth.
Ajay S. Sriram, the President of India’s leading industry body CII, told Rajya Sabha TV: “It’s important that growth rate goes up. This is the only way that jobs will be created and the government’s revenues will go up.”
The industry has demanded simplification of tax laws. Sriram said: “Tax cases worth Rs 2 lakh crore are stuck in courts. We want tax laws to be simplified. There is so much complexity that everything ends up in courts.”
Finance ministers of various states also expressed the same view when they met Jaitley and his team in Delhi with their budget wish lists.
Kerala finance minister KM Mani said: “Indian economy needs a stimulus package. There is a need to revive Indian economy from sluggishness. The Centre must formulate a stimulus package for states.”
The farmers’ organisations have sought a timely decision on minimum support price (MSP), with at least 50% margin on the cost of production, and also a dedicated Kisan TV Channel for farmers. NGOs and experts of social sectors also asked the government to increase the budgetary allocation for 2.68 crore differently abled people, implement the national competition policy and take more steps to protect consumers.
The representatives of the central trade unions have demanded a minimum wage of Rs 15 thousand per month that is linked to retail inflation. They also pressed for 200 days of guaranteed work under MNREGA and tax exemption for the salaried class on annual income of up to Rs. 5 lakh.
Industry bodies wanted the government to follow the path of fiscal consolidation, take more steps to restrict inflation, especially food inflation besides a renewed push to implement the Goods and Services tax. They also wanted no retrospective amendments in tax laws.
Siddharth Birla, president of industry lobby group Ficci, told Rajya Sabha TV: “We don’t want a retrospective tax regime.”
The budget wish list of bankers sought an increase in the exemption limit under section 80(C) of the income tax act to encourage savings. Currently investment and savings up to Rs. 1 lakh is exempted from personal income tax. Increasing domestic savings is considered essential to boost investment to revive growth.
Finance sector experts also suggested removing all kinds of cess and surcharges. They also urged the new finance minister to increase the tax rate if it is needed.