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Budget: Income tax rates unchanged, big boost to capex

In line with the previous Budget, the Finance Minister focussed on supply side of the economy and long-term growth even as many economists suggested measures to lift consumer confidence which has been at an ebb during the pandemic.

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New Delhi: Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman disappointed taxpayers as she kept personal income tax slabs unchanged while raising capex by 35 per cent year-on-year to Rs 7.50 lakh crore to boost demand and create jobs.

In line with the previous Budget, the Finance Minister focussed on supply side of the economy and long-term growth even as many economists suggested measures to lift consumer confidence which has been at an ebb during the pandemic.

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As pandemic took toll on people’s income and raised health risks, people turned risk-averse leading to lower consumption demand, which had anyway collapsed before the pandaemic hit. Higher capex is set to create jobs and crowd the private investment.

However, given the higher gestation period of infrastructure projects it takes time to create jobs and income. Presenting the Budget in Lok Sabha on Tuesday, Sitharaman said virtuous cycle of investment requires public investment to crowd-in private investment.

“Public investment must continue to take the lead and pump-prime the private investment and demand in 2022-23. “Considering the above imperative, the outlay for capital expenditure in the Union Budget is once again being stepped up sharply by 35.4 per cent from Rs 5.54 lakh crore in the current year to Rs 7.50 lakh crore in 2022-23,” she said. She noted that capex has now increased to more than 2.2 times the expenditure of 2019-20.

“This outlay in 2022-23 will be 2.9 per cent of GDP,” she said. In a significant move, the country’s Defence Budget has been raised by 9.8 percent. Private entities will design and develop alongside DRDO in SPV model Contrary to expectations of some populist measures in view of assembly elections in five states, including Uttar Pradesh, Sitharaman stayed away from taking such moves.

Briefing media after Budget presentation, Sitharaman suggested that not raising tax rates should be taken as relief. “We have not increased (income) tax for people. Last year it was the direction of PM to not increase the burden for people in pandemic times even if it means increase in fiscal deficit.

The same instruction has been there this time also,” she said. Facing criticism for not extending any relief for the middle class, Sitharaman pointed out that every sector be it farmers, MSMEs, affordable housing all have middle class component. India Inc termed the Budget as growth-oriented and endorsed the move to spend more on infrastructure and asset building.

“The proposed 35.4 per cent increase in the allocation for capital expenditure on top of the last year’s increase of 34.5 per cent, is a booster shot for the economy. It will pump prime demand and private investment and create jobs, said CII President TV Narendran.

“What is also commendable is that the capex push has been balanced well with fiscal consolidation, with fiscal deficit for FY 23 pegged at 6.4 per cent,” he further said. As a part of the government’s overall market borrowings in 2022-23, sovereign Green Bonds will be issued for mobilizing resources for green infrastructure.

Sitharaman said that the proceeds from bond issue will be deployed in public sector projects which help in reducing the carbon intensity of the economy. Abhaya K Agarwal, National Leader, Government and Public sector Infrastructure, EY India said that Budget 2022 has a major focus on the creation of infrastructure through PPP which can be seen from Gati Shakti implementation based on seven growth engines and digital highway for data transfers between various modes.

“The announcements such as 25,000 km of highways, 4 multi-modal logistics parks on PPP, 100 Gati Shakti cargo terminals, 400 Vande Bharat trains, a string of ropeway projects in hilly areas, a high priority for Ken-Betwa river link project and 60,000 crores for ‘Har Ghar Nal Se Jal’ lay the overall vision of the government,” he said. Reeling under crisis, real estate sector got a shot in the arm with Budget allocating Rs 48,000 crore to complete 80 lakh houses in 2022-23 under PM Awas Yojana.

“Budget has seen a renewed focus on affordable housing with an allocation of Rs 48,000 crore in PMAY,” Sharad Mittal, Chief Executive Officer, Motilal Oswal Real Estate.

The government’s fiscal position remains comfortable with enhanced tax collections in the current financial year. With both direct and indirect tax collections recording significant growth, it was expected that government would extend relief to common man. GST collection hit record high in January since inception with collection topping Rs 1,40,986 crore.

The Budget provided some relief to co-operative societies by reducing tax and surcharge for them. The Alternate Minimum Tax has been proposed to be reduced to 15 per cent for co-operative societies.

“I also propose to reduce the surcharge on co-operative societies from present 12 per cent to 7 per cent for those having total income of more than Rs 1 crore and up to Rs 10 crores. This would help in enhancing the income of cooperative societies and its members who are mostly from rural and farming communities,” Sitharaman said.

The Budget proposed to extend concessional tax rate for new manufacturing set-ups at the rate of 15 per cent by one year. The move is expected to drive private investment in the economy. Custom duties for a host of items including steel scrap for secondary steel producers were also proposed to be rationalised.

“The issue of high customs duties and non-tariff barriers on basic raw material other than steel such as copper, aluminum and polymers remains largely unaddressed,” noted Animesh Saxena, President, Federation of Indian Micro and Small & Medium Enterprises (FISME).

The government continued its support for MSME sector and extended the emergency credit guarantee scheme ECLGS to March 2023 and its guarantee cover expanded by Rs 50,000 crore to total cover of Rs 5 lakh crore. As it laid out long-term plan, Budget gave a major boost to digital economy and fintech, technology enabled development, energy transition, and climate action.

Sitharaman announced 5G rollout by private telcos in 2022-23 and online e-bill facility for all government supplies. In a blow to crypto players, the Budget 2022 has proposed to tax income from transfer of any virtual digital asset at the rate of 30 per cent. While captains from industry generally approved the Budget, some leaders from restaurant, transport and travel sectors expressed disappointment claiming they were left out.

“It was very disappointing to see that no specific announcements were made for the restaurant industry and we are yet again left to fend for ourselves,” said Kabir Suri President, National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) and Co-Founder & Director, Azure Hospitality.

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