Dubai businessmen hail India's budget

Dubai businessmen hail Indias budget
Business leaders listen to Indian finance minister Arun Jaitley's budget presentation in New Delhi on Monday. - PTI

The budget, aimed at boosting farm growth and appealing to the rural poor, who constitute the lower end of the pyramid, by seeking to double the income of struggling farmers in the next five years, has been welcomed as a strategic plan to take the world's fastest growing major economy to a higher but sustainable growth trajectory.

By Issac John

Published: Tue 1 Mar 2016, 8:52 PM

Last updated: Wed 2 Mar 2016, 8:19 AM

For the first time in several years, non-resident Indians (NRIs) in Dubai were near unanimous in throwing their support for the 2016-17 budget presented on Monday by finance minister Arun Jaitley regardless of the fact that the proposals fell far short of the wider expectations of the overseas Indian diaspora.

The budget, aimed at boosting farm growth and appealing to the rural poor, who constitute the lower end of the pyramid, by seeking to double the income of struggling farmers in the next five years, has been welcomed as a strategic plan to take the world's fastest growing major economy to a higher but sustainable growth trajectory.
The increased thrust on education, infrastructure, youth empowerment and start-ups will have a far-reaching positive social and economic impact on the second largest country by population and the third biggest economy in Asia, NRI business leaders and professionals said.
Sunny Varkey, chairman of GEM-Varkey Group, welcoming the greater focus on education, said the proposed higher education financing agency would be an economic spring for the Indian education sector.
Varkey said setting up a dedicated agency would benefit students as well as the financing system, given that most banks are finding it difficult to manage the NPAs (non-performing loans) from the education financing. He also praised the move to provide regulatory architecture to 10 public and 10 private institutions to emerge as world-class teaching institutions.
Bottom of the pyramid
Dr Azad Moopen, founder chairman and managing director of Aster DM Healthcare, described the budget as transformative in nature and is aimed at empowering the rural population and strengthening the "bottom of the pyramid". This will play a key role in fuelling the overall economy and help sustain a growth rate of over seven per cent, which is "a bright spot in a sluggish global economic scenario."
Moopen said the three major measures announced for the healthcare sector are aimed largely at the underserved and rural segments of the country, and support the National Health Policy 2015 which advocates healthcare as a fundamental right.
Faizal E Kottikollon, chairman of KEF Holdings, said the budget is a step in the right direction towards addressing some of the most pressing challenges in India, especially in the area of rural development, which forms one of the nine reform pillars.
Looking at the big push towards infrastructure spending, the allocation of Rs2.18 trillion for the building of roads and railways, will particularly drive much-needed development in the country.
Kottikollon said the dedicated body to redress disputes on issues related to public-private partnership infrastructure projects would help alleviate concerns that are currently deterring foreign and domestic private investors in this sector.
'A country of prosperous villages'
Dr Ram Buxani, chairman, ITL-Cosmos Group, hailed the budget as  a farmer's budget. "For long, rural population has kept on moving to urban areas because of uncomfortable rural situation. It is a dangerous scenario. Farming should be encouraged and made lucrative.
"The world will not look at India as a land of poor villages but Bharat will be identified as a country of prosperous villages. Farmers who are feeding the nation will soon start living a dignified life," said Buxani.
Dr P.A. Ibrahim Haji, co-chairman of Malabar Gold, said the thrust on the agriculture sector, the conceived vast road network, the promise of electricity for every village in the country and greater allocation to local bodies would benefit villagers who constitute 65 per cent of the population.
"The finance minister has not ventured to take a risk by proposing heavier taxation, as this is an election year for many state assemblies," said Dr Ibrahim. "The people of Kerala, South and North are equally disappointed as no solace was provided for the crying rubber and coconut farmers," he said.
Kulwant Singh, president of IBPC, said the focus on rural development was certainly needed. "The farming and agricultural sectors were in need of this kind of support; the focus on the youth is another plus. I am also happy to hear about FDI in retail of domestic food products. However, the budget had no mention of NRIs and how the government can help this sector. A mention of easing gold imports and repatriation rules was also neglected in the finance minister's speech."
Best features
Paras Shahdadpuri, IBPC board member, said the budget has focused on the lower end of the pyramid and laid emphasis on the rural and agricultural sector. Steps such as LPG connections for women from BPL (below poverty line) households, special focus on education and encouragement to new entrepreneurs are some of the best features of this year's budget.
Shamlal Ahmed, group executive director, Malabar Group, said the government has disappointed the gold jewellery trade. The budget proposed to levy one per cent excise duty on jewellery without input credit or 12.5 per cent excise with input credit.
"Levying of excise duty on jewellery industry will create more trouble for this industry which is already starving. While the cost of jewellery will go up, it will be very difficult for the government to implement the excise duty," said Ahmed.
Kamal Vachani, regional director, Electronics and Computer Software Export Promotion Council, described the budget as growth-oriented and forwarding looking. "Those NRIs, who do not have PAN card can submit passport copy or any other documents as proof of residence to avail of the low rate TDS and increase in baggage allowance are the welcome steps taken by the budget," said Vachani.  
Balanced budget
Ashish Mehta, managing partner, Ashish Mehta and Associates, said the finance minister deserves accolades for presenting a balanced and growth-oriented budget. "The new budget is progressive and it is evident the government is serious to kickstart and strongly push the economy."
Raju Menon, chairman and managing partner, Morison Menon, said a major share of budget allotments have been given to agriculture, infrastructure, education and healthcare, which clearly shows the goal of the government to uplift the rural masses.
"Allowing 100 per cent FDI in the marketing of food products produced and manufactured in India will come as an impetus to the food processing industry and boost the agriculture sector," said Menon.

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