Saturday, March 17, 2012

Union Budget 2012-13: Neither Reformist Nor Populist

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee presented the Union Budget for 2012-13 in the Lok Sabha (lower house of the Parliament) on March 16. The Budget proposed a total plan outlay for agriculture has been increased by 18 per cent from Rs 17,123 crore in 2011-12 to Rs 20,208 crore in 2012-13. This will support the new initiatives announced in the budget besides backing the existing programs which have resulted into record food grain production this year. There is a total non-plan outlay of Rs 4,011 crore in the budget estimates for 2012-13.
The finance minister also announced an increase in the allocation for Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) from Rs. 7860 crore in 2011-12 to Rs. 9217 crore in 2012-13. Expressing satisfaction at the success of bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India by way of increasing the production and productivity of paddy, the Finance Minister proposed to increase the allocation for this scheme from Rs. 400 crore in 2011-12 to Rs. 1000 crore in 2012-13.
The Union Budget has announced a justifiable 17.6 per cent hike in its defense spending to allocate an additional Rs 28,992 crore for 2012-13, over the ongoing year’s Rs 1,64,415 crore defense budget. India will spend Rs 1,93,407 crore, nearly $38.6 billion, on defense which is about 11 per cent of the entire country’s budgetary outlay for the next financial year staring April 1.
Around Rs 79,579 crore, it was Rs 69, 199 crore in 2011-12, have been earmarked for capital expenses like for new acquisitions of weapons, warplanes, warships, equipment, naval dockyards and special classified projects. In 2011-12, India had affected a hike of 11.59 per cent in its defense spending.
The finance minister said this allocation was based on the present needs projected by the Defense Ministry and further needs for security would also be met. India’ budgetary hike comes just weeks after China announced a $106 billion military budget, taking its military spending into the triple digit figures for the first time.
In other words, India would be spending some 40 per cent of what China spends on its Defense. The core US defense budget, not including its war funding, has been projected $525 billion for the same period. Pakistan has a defense outlay of $5.75 billion for 2011-12, a raise of 12 per cent.
The present hike, when seen from the revised budget allocation for this year, works out to be a 13.15 per cent. Interestingly, the share of India’s defense spending out of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has gone up slightly. It now stands at 1.90 per cent of the GDP, up from 1.84 per cent for the ongoing fiscal.
The finance minister Pranab gas announced a Rs 1,00,000 crore increase in the agriculture credit target, boosting it to Rs 5,75,000 for the next fiscal, and raised the outlay for farm sector by more than Rs 3,000 crore - proposals that farmers’ representatives called “encouraging” and economists “lacking in new initiatives”.
Emphasising that agriculture was a priority for the government, Mukherjee increased the total plan outlay for the sector by 18 per cent, up from Rs 17, 123 crore in 2011-12 to Rs 20,208 crore in 2012-13.
As per leading agriculture scientist MS Swaminathan, the increase in the target for agricultural credit to Rs 5,75,000 crore is the only new initiative in Budget. The finance minister has essentially tried to consolidate the gains made as a result of the initiatives he had launched during the previous two budgets.
With a range of flagship projects moving in parallel in the school education sector, Pranab Mukherjee has announced nearly a 22 per cent hike for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and a 29 per cent increase for the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA).
The finance minister has earmarked a total of `61,427 crores for the education sector in budget 2012-13, a hike of about 18 per cent in the budgetary allocation over last year, with `15,458 crores earmarked for higher education and `45,969 for school education.
The Union Budget has proposed to increase the outlay of the government’s flagship scheme — National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and projected to launch the National Urban Health Mission (NUHM) to target the urban poor. It proposes to increase the allocation to NRHM from `18,115 crores in 2011-12 to `20,822 crore in 2012-13.
The finance minister also proposed to extend concessional basic customs duty of five per cent with full exemption from excise duty/CVD to six life-saving drugs/vaccines. The drugs and the vaccines exempted from excise duty are: Raltegravir Potassium for treatment of HIV-I infection, rotavirus vaccine, Pneumococcal Polysaccharide vaccine for the treatment of patients with thallassemia, malignancy, Posaconazole Oral Suspension for the treatment of life threatening invasive fungal infections, Temsirolimus Concentrate for Infusion for Injection for treatment of advanced renal cell carcinoma and Natalizumab the treatment of relapsing forms of Multiple Sclerosis.
For 2012-2013 an allocation of `30, 477 crores has been made as against the budget estimate of `24315 crores in 2011-2012. This amounts to a jump of over 25 per cent. In a major thrust towards ensuring adequate nutrition women and children, the government has proposed to reduce basic customs duty on soya protein concentrate and isolated soya protein to 10 per cent from the present 30 per cent and 15 per cent respectively.
The government has made it clear in the Budget presented that it is not possible to grant more subsidies and keep consumers cushioned from price rises.
The finance minister has set a target to restrict subsidies under 2 per cent of GDP in 2012-13 and bring it down further to 1.75 per cent of GDP over the next three years. This may be achieved through direct transfer of fuel and fertilizer subsidies to the beneficiaries and an increase in retail prices of petroleum products. This means the subsidy bill would be capped at `2.04 lakh crores, considering India’s GDP of `102 lakh crores. The government has absorbed the duty reduction in petroleum products with annual revenue loss of `49,000 crores. For 2011-12, the total subsidy bill has been pegged at `2.16 lakh crores. The Budget estimate for subsidies stands at `1.9 lakh crores for 2012-13.
External Commercial Borrowings
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee permitted the sectors to take External Commercial Borrowings (ECB) route to help themselves.
The Budget proposed to allow external commercial borrowings to part finance rupee debt of existing power projects. Reliance Power, Tata Power, Torrent Power, Adani Power, GVK Power are the major companies which would get benefit from this move.
As regards airlines, Kingfisher, Jet Airways and SpiceJet got a major relief after the Government allowed the airline companies to raise capital through external borrowings worth $1 billion for a year.
Kingfisher Airlines, which has a debt of around Rs 600 crore, reported a net loss of Rs 469 crore for the July-September quarter of the current fiscal, while Jet Airways posted a net loss of Rs 101.22 crore (Rs 1.01 billion) for the third quarter of 2011-12, will benefit the most from the move.
As regards the real estate and road sector, the Budget has taken into account the crying need to focus on affordable housing sector by allowing ECB for low cost housing, road as well as construction. Experts say as withholding tax on ECBs for affordable housing has been reduced from 20 per cent to 5 per cent for 3 years this will help ease the liquidity in the sector.
Tax Relief
In a relief to individual taxpayers and salaried class, the finance minister raised the exemption limit on personal income-tax by `20,000 to `2,00,000 in the Union Budget. The exemption limit will be the same for men and women, unlike in the past. The threshold limit for senior citizens remains unchanged, at `2,50,000. The change will mean savings of `2,000 in tax for male taxpayers and savings of `1,000 for women.
The finance minister also tinkered with tax slabs; the top 30 per cent income-tax rate will be applicable from incomes of `10 lakhs and above, against `8 lakhs now. This will give a straight and flat tax relief to the extent of `20,000 for anyone who has income over `10 lakhs. Incomes between `2,00,001 and `5,00,000 will be taxed at 10 per cent; and those between `5,00,000 and `10,00,000 at 20 per cent.According to the finance minister, increasing the exemption limit is a move toward implementing the Direct Taxes Code (DTC). The standing committee of Parliament that scrutinised the DTC Bill had suggested raising the tax exemption limit to `3 lakhs. Tax rates for senior citizens (60 and above) and “very senior” citizens (80 and above) remain unchanged. The qualifying age for senior citizens has been set at 60 now.
Revenue Collection
The finance minister has been timid in revenue collection resources, which will raise just `41,440 crores net. It is clear that he has tried to act cautiously, and not been as proactive as expected, possibly due to global economic weaknesses, as well as domestic constraints. The revenue collection is nowhere close to what was needed, given the huge fiscal deficit the government must grapple with. He widened the service tax net, but said himself that the funds he will get is far less than what this sector, accounting for almost 59 per cent of GDP, could be tapped for.
Fiscal Deficit
There is skepticism about the finance minister’s claim of reducing the fiscal deficit to 5.1 per cent of the GDP in the coming year. This year the budgetary target of 4.6 per cent of the GDP has been overshot by one percentage point due to economic slowdown, higher oil prices and a hefty subsidy bill. There is no guarantee that things would change this year. There is another negative signal for foreign investors. The government has indicated that the British firm Vodafone’s case may be reopened as the definitions of “property” and “transfer” have been changed retrospectively. The Supreme Court had ruled in favor of Vodafone in a tax dispute over a cross-border deal. Such actions hit investor confidence.
* Tax burden for individuals to come down: Income tax exemption limit raised from Rs. 1,80,000 to Rs. 2,00,000; 10 per cent tax for 2-5 lakh income; 20 per cent for 5-10 lakh and 30 per cent beyond Rs. 10 lakh; Savings bank account interest up to Rs. 10,000 exempted from tax.
* Many services and goods to cost more: No change in corporate tax rate, but standard rate of excise duty, as also service tax rates, raised from 10 per cent to 12 per cent; No change in peak customs duty of 10 per cent on non-agri goods.
* Large cars, imported bicycles, cigarettes, bidis and some imported jewellery to cost more; branded silver jewellery may get cheaper.
* Boost for capital markets: Securities Transaction Tax on cash delivery reduced by 25 per cent to 0.1 per cent; A new Rajiv Gandhi Equity Saving Scheme to allow income tax deduction to retail investors in stocks.
* Economy expected to gain ground: GDP growth rate pegged at 7.6 per cent in 2012-13; Subsidy Expenditure to be checked and higher tax revenues targeted; Rs. 30,000 crore to be raised from disinvestment.
* Capital boost to financial and infrastructure sectors: Rs. 15,888 crore to be provided for capitalisation of public sector banks and financial institutions; Infrastructure investment of Rs. 50 lakh crore in 12th period, with half from private sector; Tax free bonds of Rs. 60,000 crore to be allowed for financial infrastructure projects.
* Fight against black money: White paper on black money in current session of Parliament; Introduction of compulsory reporting requirement for assets held abroad; tax collection at source on high-value cash purchase of bullion, jewellery, immovable property and trading in coal, lignite and iron ore.
* Greater scrutiny of closely-held companies for funds; Taxation of unexplained money, credits, investments, expenses at highest rate of 30 per cent irrespective of income slab.
* Tax reforms: Direct Taxes Code (DTC) at earliest; GST network to be operational by August 2012; Central Excise and Service Tax being harmonized. A General Anti-Avoidance Rule (GAAR) to be introduced to counter aggressive tax avoidance.
* Attracting foreign funds: Efforts on to allow FDI in multi-brand retail and permitting foreign airlines invest in domestic players; External borrowings to the extent of USD one billion for aviation companies; Qualified Foreign Investors to get access to corporate bond market.
* Tax relief for stressed sectors: Sectors like agriculture, infrastructure, mining, railways, roads, civil aviation, manufacturing, health and nutrition, and environment to get duty relief; Turnover limit for compulsory tax audit for SMEs raised from Rs 60 lakh to Rs 1 crore.
* Farming for growth: Target for agricultural credit raised to Rs 5,75,000 crore; Interest subvention for short-term crop loans to farmers at 7 per cent interest continues; additional 3 per cent for prompt paying farmers.
Financial Highlights of Budget 2012-12:
* Direct proposals to give in net revenue loss of Rs. 4,500 crore and net gain of Rs. 45,940 crore from indirect taxes, resulting into a net gain of Rs. 41,440 crore.
* Fiscal deficit targeted at 5.1 per cent of GDP in 2012-13, down from 5.9 per cent in 2011-12; Central Government debt at 45.5 per cent of GDP.
* Total expenditure budgeted at Rs. 14,90,925 crore; plan expenditure at Rs. 5,21,025 crore, 18 per cent higher than 2011-12 budget; non-plan expenditure at Rs. 9,69,900 crore.
* Gross Tax Receipts estimated at Rs. 10,77,612 crore, 15.6 per cent higher than original budget estimates and 19.5 per cent over the revised estimates for 2011-12.
* Net tax to the Centre in 2012-13 estimated at Rs. 7,71,071 crore; Non-Tax Revenue Receipts estimated at Rs. 1,64,614 crore and Non-debt Capital Receipts at Rs. 41,650 crore.
* Total expenditure for 2012-13 budgeted at Rs. 14,90,925 crore, including Rs. 5,21,025 crore of Plan Expenditure and Rs. 9,69,900 crore as Non-Plan Expenditure. * Defence services get Rs. 1,93,407 crore; any further requirement to be met.

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