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India Budget 2018: UAE business leaders hail pro-growth reforms

Issac John /dubai
issacjohn@khaleejtimes.com Filed on February 2, 2018 | Last updated on February 2, 2018 at 07.25 am
India Budget 2018: UAE business leaders hail pro-growth reforms


(Khaleej Times)

Sunny Varkey, chairman, GEMS Education

Azad Moopen, founder chairman and MD of Aster DM Healthcare

Dr B.R. Shetty, chairman, BRS Ventures

T. S. Kalyanaraman, chairman and managing director, Kalyan Jewellers

Rizwan Sajan, founder and chairman, Danube Group

Y. Sudhir Kumar Shetty, president, UAE Exchange

J.R. Gangaramani, president and executive chairman, Al Fara’a Group

Naveen Sharma, chairman, ICAI Dubai chapter

Thumbay Moideen, founder president, Thumbay Group

Despite offering no incentives for NRIs, the budget drew praise from UAE industry stalwarts.

Yusuffali M.A., chairman, Lulu Group
A growth-oriented budget with greater emphasis on rural and infrastructure development. This will enable India to get a competitive edge in the global economy and bring about real changes. Though there is no mention about NRIs in this budget, I hope the government will come up with initiatives to leverage their potential to invest more in India by introducing transparent plans and hassle-free procedures.

Sunny Varkey, chairman, GEMS Education
The education sector has been given great priority with an allocation of Rs1 trillion. Use of technology in education like black boards with digital boards and emphasis on training untrained teachers will help transform the sector. Artificial Intelligence, IT infrastructure and research have rightly been identified as priorities. The increased investment in agriculture and rural areas should stimulate demand for affordable housing in rural areas.

Azad Moopen, founder chairman and MD of Aster DM Healthcare
This budget has given special attention to health of the poor and marginalised population of India who were finding it difficult to access quality healthcare. The National Health Protection scheme announced in the budget aims to cover 100 million such families by providing them up to Rs500,000 per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation.

Thumbay Moideen, founder president, Thumbay Group
This seems to be a balanced budget with emphasis on education and healthcare, at the same time friendly towards businessmen and professionals. One of the highlights is the new National Health Protection Scheme, expected to benefit 500 million people across 100 million families. This budget also places greater importance on infrastructure development.

Dr B.R. Shetty, chairman, BRS Ventures
A strong and forward-looking budget from the Indian Finance Minister. While NRI welfare has not figured in the budget directly, increased focus on improving loan access, capital allocation and corporate tax reduction for traditional and micro industries could help NRIs look homeward for business investment because of a more conducive environment.

T. S. Kalyanaraman, chairman and managing director, Kalyan Jewellers
The estimated growth of GDP to 7.2-7.5 per cent in the second half of 2018 should help boost consumer demand and give a positive momentum to gold and jewellery sales. The issue of import duty on gold has not been addressed in the budget, and we hope it is considered to give a fillip to the domestic industry.

Rizwan Sajan, founder and chairman, Danube Group
The new budget will boost Indian real estate further, particularly among the NRI population, who can look forward to timely execution of projects and quality construction among other benefits. Moreover, government investment across healthcare, infrastructure, transport and education will be an additional lucrative factor for investment.

Y. Sudhir Kumar Shetty, president, UAE Exchange
Overall, the India Budget 2018 looks futuristic and growth-oriented. There has been no mention about NRIs in the budget. Probably the government is prioritising on developments within India. The fiscal deficit is pegged at 3.5 per cent which is a courageous move. Elections being round the corner doesn't seem to impact the objectivity and focus of the budget. It can be called a bold budget.

J.R. Gangaramani, president and executive chairman, Al Fara'a Group
The budget is a step in the right direction to transform the Indian economy from an informal one to a formal one. This is a common man, business-friendly and development-friendly budget with emphasis not only on the ease of doing business but also ease of living. Both the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister have been pragmatic with focus on asset creation and initiating measures to boost economic activities like infrastructure rather than wasteful spending. This budget augurs well for India to become the world's fifth largest economy.

Naveen Sharma, chairman, ICAI Dubai chapter
The Indian budget is balanced. The government has made some serious announcements in healthcare and education sectors. The initiatives in healthcare will improve the life of thenaverage Indian and the push to digitise India will move the economy from black to digital by 2022. However, no change in personal taxes is a disappointment. There is very little for the middle class. Tax on long term capital gains will also take the shine away from the stock market. NRIs are disappointed as there are no big announcements for them.

Ram Buxani, chairman, ITL Cosmos
Holding the deficit, all have been made happy. Parliament members have been assured perpetual increase in their remuneration by legislation. Farmers, train commuters, home seekers, college education dreamers, have all reason to be happy. Issuing bonds to justify recapitalisation of banks to address the deficit created by NPA gives good investment opportunity. But all this will create burden for the government. If they remain, they will strive to fulfill their commitment. Otherwise, they would have left enough load for new incumbent to become inefficient. Average Indian has reason to be happy.

James Mathew, Group CEO, Crowe Horwath (UAE & OMAN)
The ambitious universal health insurance scheme covering almost half of the population could be a game-changer for New India. It is encouraging that the government is focused on the bottom of the pyramid with all the rural, agriculture, infra and women-centric reforms. But implementation remains the key, the rubber has to hit the road; NRI concerns were given a miss, same as defence, disaster management and the salaried class.

Faizal Kottikollon, founder and chairman of KEF Holdings
It is heartening to see the Indian government adopt sturdier measures to benefit all sections of the population - especially small and medium-sized businesses, farmers and much of the country's population in need of better health, housing, education and general infrastructure provisions. I am pleased to see the reduction in corporate tax to 25 per cent. This is a significant move, and one that enables robust growth through private sector investment, which has been sluggish. Together with the impact of GST and greater opportunities for FDI, we will see India Inc. really shine in 2018.

Adeeb Ahamed, managing director, Lulu Exchange Holdings and Twenty14 Holdings
The Union Budget for 2018-19 is quite conservative with greater emphasis on improving the agri-economy along with infrastructure and healthcare sectors. From an NRI perspective, the budget does not have anything to write home about. We expected certain tax reforms relating to investments in India by NRIs, but the business community will be disappointed with the oversight.

Sudhesh Giriyan, COO, Xpress Money
India's Union Budget 2018 is an affirmation of the government's focus on holistic economic growth. With game-changing initiatives proposed for the agriculture sector, this year's budget comes as a positive push for farmers in the country. While things remain largely unchanged for NRIs around the world, they will still find plenty of reasons to keep investing in India and its growth.

Mohan Valrani, senior vice-chairman, Al Shirawi Group
The Indian Union Budget is rural focused. The plan to develop regional airports, roads, infrastructure and railways will improve the economy in the long run. The introduction of 10 per cent long term capital gain tax will affect the stock exchange returns. There is no change in the personal income tax which will adversely affect the middle class. However, there is some relief to salary class by reintroducing standard deduction. The budget has very little to offer NRIs.

Raju Menon, chairman and managing partner Morison Menon group
This budget has taken care of farmers, rural population, poor and the underprivileged, youth, infrastructure, digital economy, financial sector and the public sector. The budget also announced prudential fiscal management. Overall, it is a thoughtful one to bring sustainability to the country's current progress. The capital gains tax may slow down the stock market temporarily. However, the Indian stock market's growth for the next 10 years will be phenomenal. The proposal to implement the blockchain concept will keep our country as one of the technological pioneers in the world.

Paras Shahdadpuri, chairman, Nikai Group of Companies
Modi's demonetisation is producing dividends with the capitalisation of banks and increasing the taxpayer base by 41 per cent. Restructuring by way of GST and income tax would bring ease of doing business and remove multi-tax anomalies. One-tax-one-nation is the way forward. The MSME sector which was an informal economy is being brought into the formal economy.

Anuj Puri, chairman, Anarock Property Consultants
As expected, the budget turned out to be populist and sounded excessively cautious while the need of the hour was to provide a positive boost to the economy, which is reeling under the pressure of structural changes and policy reforms. While there were not many takeaways for the individual taxpayers, the Budget also did not seem to favour any particular sector.

Siddharth Balachandran, chairman, Buimerc Corporation
It would be erroneous to consider this budget as purely a populist one, as there have been certain positive actions taken for the corporate sector as well, such as the benefit of reduced corporate tax rate of 25 per cent, that is now extended to all those companies whose turnover is Rs2.5 billion or less in the FY 2016-17.

Suresh Panwar, chairman, ICAI Abu Dhabi chapter
The government has tried to maintain a balance between populist and reformist measures. Even though the government has not increased the limit for taxable income for individuals but it has brought back the standard deduction at Rs40,000 and contribution of 12 per cent of EPF for new employees in all sectors. This is a welcome step for salaried personnel.

K.V. Thomas, managing director, Thomsun Group
Change in capital gains tax for equity could accelerate the shift of preference from equity to other investment assets like real estate. This would be a reversal of the trend over the past five years with real estate attracting more investment. Promoting rural sector is the way forward to build a better India and remove poverty. Housing for all by 2022 is a dream proposal.

Santosh Varghese, head of Toshiba Gulf MEA
Thrust on developing Artificial Intelligence will propel India to a new level of growth. Setting up 500,000 WiFi hotspots in rural areas will give rural population easy access to the Internet. The thrust on developing artificial intelligence will have a game-changing impact.

Sunny Kulathakal, president, Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin
The increased investment in agriculture and rural areas should stimulate and boost demand for affordable housing. Budget offers a lot to farmers, rural population, poor and underprivileged and youth. The introduction of 10 per cent long term capital gain tax will affect the stock exchange return. There is no change in the personal income tax, which will adversely affect middle class. However, there is some relief to salary class by reintroducing standard deduction.

Navin Kapoor, MD, Xpertize United
The Finance Minister has given a populist 'Bharat' budget in his last full budget prior to 2019 election. The MSP increase to 150 per cent for all Kharif crops is a good news for farmers. The agriculture infrastructure development will benefit the food processing industry and farmers. The issuance of Kissan credit card is another sop for farmers. Electricity for everyone by 2019 and housing by 2022 are pro-poor initiatives. This is a pro-poor budget and addresses the vote bank for upcoming State elections and Lok Sabha elections in 2019.

Jai Prakash Agarwal, manager - Oracle implementation, Aster DM Healthcare Services
The three major communities focused in Budget 2018 are agriculture, senior citizens and healthcare. With the proposed budget, it will be interesting to see the sentiment of mid-level group, which consist of both salaried employees and SMEs. While salaried employees have not received any major relief, for SMEs with turnover of up to Rs2.5 billion, the tax rate has been reduced to 25 per cent.

Bharat Bhai Shah, convener, NRI Cell, IBPC Sharjah
The budget takes care of farmers, rural population, poor and the underprivileged. Setting the support price at 1.5 times the produce price will bring more earnings to farmers. The introduction of long term capital gain tax will dampen investment sentiment. Introduction of the world's largest healthcare program is the need of the hour.

Kamal Vachani, group director, Al Maya Group
Increase in customs duty on mobile phones to 20 per cent will help boost domestic production and 'Make in India' will get a fillip. The huge allocation for farmers will boost their income and generate million of new jobs in the rural sector. Allocation of Rs5.79 trillion for infrastructure will upgrade roads and highways.

Kulwant Singh, founder and MD, Lama Group
This year's budget has been a blessing to various sectors and focuses on strengthening agriculture, education, healthcare benefits and improving infrastructure. These steps will inspire international confidence and promote foreign investments that is vital to the growth and development of the country.

Shyam A. Bhatia, chairman, Alam Steel Group
The Budget is not particularly beneficial for NRIs. The National Health Protection Scheme to cover rural poor families is a historic milestone. It will benefit millions of families across India. Rural infrastructure development like roads, schools, toilets and houses for the poor is also a great step. Allocation to the agriculture sector is remarkable, as majority of India's population is directly dependent on agriculture.

- issacjohn@khaleejtimes.com

author

Issac John

Editorial Director of Khaleej Times, is a well-connected Indian journalist and an economic and financial commentator. He has been in the UAE's mainstream journalism for 35 years, including 23 years with Khaleej Times. A post-graduate in English and graduate in economics, he has won over two dozen awards. Acclaimed for his authentic and insightful analysis of global and regional businesses and economic trends, he is respected for his astute understanding of the local business scene.





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