The finance minister has delivered a practical budget that addresses many crucial areas topping the government agenda. The Budget would please rating agencies given its visibly significant control over the twin deficits and inflation with growth targeted at 8-8.5%. The GAAR applicability deferment by two years and the commitment to prospective taxation would certainly win the confidence of foreign investors. On the domestic front, the FM has indeed boosted corporate and individual sentiment with his resolve to move towards a 25% tax level in next four years and the additional deductions for individual tax payers for health cover premium payments, pension contribution and transport allowance.
Among the key positive takeaways are the Plug-and-play model for ultra mega power projects, merging of Forward Market Commission (FMC) with SEBI, launch of Gold sovereign bonds, introduction of a comprehensive bankruptcy law, extension of SARFAESI Act to NBFCs, a pre-dominant Centre-to-State revenue shift, divestment of loss making units, gold monetization scheme tapping the investment potential of the yellow metal, the proposed move towards universal social security, tangible measures to arrest the black money menace and the April 2016 GST target launch.
Given the FM’s predictable emphasis on infrastructure and affordable housing, rationalization of REIT capital gains tax is welcome. The FM has managed to restrict total expenditure, therefore keeping market borrowing in check. Non-Plan expenditure growth has been budgeted to be 8% next year and higher allocation made to capital side of Plan expenditure.
All in all, this is undoubtedly a pro-growth balanced exercise. The grim stock market response, however, is only an obvious outcome of its lofty expectations that housed many unrealistic wishes like the complete removal of short term capital gains tax (STCG) for equity investors.