Rail Budget 2013: Slow train or fast train?

Feb 26 2013, 12:12 IST
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Railway Budget will decide UPA’s reform credentials. (Reuters) Railway Budget will decide UPA’s reform credentials. (Reuters)
SummaryFE Editorial: Railway Budget will decide UPA’s reform credentials.

is. According to the Kakodkar panel on Railway safety, around a fifth of safety-related posts in the Railways are vacant; the 52 kg/m rail tracks used, the panel says, are “not prudent to use” and around 43,000 ICF coaches used “are no more safe at the present operational speeds”. In a situation like this, the only feasible solution lies in dramatically hiking the involvement of the private sector—R2.3 lakh crore is to be mobilised through PPP in the current Plan period—but there has been no progress on this so far. While nothing has been heard of the grand plan to make the New Delhi Railway Station into a three-level modern airport-like facility and, as the column on the Reflect page points out, four years after the Cabinet approved a programme for an electric loco to be made on a PPP basis, the Railways have modified the proposal in a way that makes PPP more difficult—even irrelevant. Mr Bansal’s performance today will be the first peek into the UPA’s new reformist credentials.

Budget expectations

Key expenditure measures

* Level of overall public spending increased only 3-4% in nominal terms from 2012-13, implying a sizeable real terms cut. Defence and development projects to be hard hit. Modest increase in existing welfare benefits.

* Fertiliser subsidy likely to be cut, saving 0.1-0.2% of GDP. Diesel subsidies to be phased out by mid-2014.

* Provision for introduction of the Food Security Bill—roughly 1% of GDP in a full fiscal year.

* Additional capital to public sector banks to help them meet Basel III requirements – 0.2% of GDP.

* Payment to states for loss of central sales tax revenues prior to the introduction of GST, possibly in December 2013 – about 0.1% of GDP

Key revenue measures

* No change in income or headline corporate tax rates. Tax slabs likely to be increased in line with inflation. Promises to clamp down on tax evasion and extend the tax net.

* An increase in the breadth of excise duties and the service tax.

* Government to target divestment receipts of R400bn, up from R300bn in 2012-13. Equivalent to 0.4% of GDP. Sale of additional telecom spectrum—0.1-0.2% of GDP.

* More generous tax incentives for equity investment and savings in bank deposits designed to channel a greater share of funds into financial assets as opposed to gold for example

* Possible removal of cap on how much Indian corporate and infrastructure related debt foreign institutional investors can buy.

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