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Investors looking to a bull run following finance minister Arun Jaitley’s maiden Budget were a confused lot, with the Budget scoring as many hits as misses. Eventually, after an exceptionally volatile intra-day trading that saw the Sensex move more than 800 points, the benchmark lost 72 points.
If hiking FDI in defence and insurance were along expected lines, finance minister Jaitley deciding to accept his predecessor’s 4.1% deficit target as a challenge was a big surprise. The inability to scrap the retrospective tax or even to reduce subsidies, or announce a timeline for GST, were the most obvious negatives.
Given the economy is just about bottoming out, the chances of achieving challenging tax targets look difficult. Compared with a tax-to-GDP ratio of 10.2 in FY14, Jaitley is targeting a significantly higher 10.6, a number last achieved several years ago. This is after Jaitley gave away Rs 22,200 crore in direct taxes while gaining just Rs 7,455 crore in indirect taxes.
Sticking to the interim budget’s fiscal deficit target will keep net borrowings low, though due to large redemptions of R1.4 lakh crore this year the gross borrowing target will be R6 lakh crore.
Jaitley hopes to collect the significantly higher revenue depend upon his ability to jump-start growth. In the short run, correcting the inverted duty structure that encouraged imports over domestic production in a plethora of industries is seen as a big positive. Small increments in tax exemptions are expected to revive demand a bit.
The Budget’s biggest moves, however, were reserved for infrastructure, which got a host of incentives. Expenditure on roads, both for NHAI and rural ones, have been more than doubled. Clarification of tax laws on infrastructure trusts and changes in the 5/25 scheme for bank lending to infrastructure gave the sector’s stocks a boost. In addition, banks that raise funds for infrastructure lending won’t have to earmark part of these for SLR/CRR requirements, or even priority sector lending.
Section 80-IA tax holiday has been extended to all power projects coming up before end-FY17. Generation projects with a combined capacity of 55,000 MW and some transmission projects entailing investments of close to R5 lakh crore would benefit.
Total expenditure for FY15 has been kept at R17.95 lakh crore, which is just 1.8% higher than that in the interim budget. The Budget hopes to stimulate growth through a large increase