Live: Arun Jaitley to begin Budget speech shortly



Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will present his third General Budget on Monday. There are enough indications to suggest that the Union Budget for 2016-17 will primarily focus on stimulating growth without deviating too much from the fiscal deficit target set by Mr. Jaitley in his previous Budget.

The Government is expected to unveil a road map for big-ticket disinvestment, announce increases slightly more generous than the recommendations of the Seventh Central Pay Commission, the lowering of the corporate tax from 30 per cent to 29 per cent, the first cut in the series planned to bring it down over the next four years to 25 per cent, among others. More…

Here are the live updates:

10:29 am: Cabinet meeting in Parliament ends.

10:05 am: The Sensex falls 59 points in early trade on reduced bets by cautious retail investors amid continued capital outflows by foreign funds ahead of the Budget.

9:53 am: Pre-Budget Cabinet meet to begin shortly.

9:40 am: Mr. Jaitley, MoS Jayant Sinha arrive in Parliament.

And it begins! The Budget papers arrive in Parliament. Photo: Sandeep Saxena

9:19 am: The stock markets don’t seem very enthused ahead of the Budget — Sensex opens 38.86 points lower, currently at 23,115.44.

9:10 am: The Budget may be given a dash of green with many environment-friendly measures to reduce the carbon footprint, official sources tell The Hindu. The budget is likely to provide incentives to encourage local manufacture and Research & Development (R&D) of electric vehicle components, including lithium-iron batteries.

9:00 am: About 8.5 crore employees whose retirement savings are managed by the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) could get an option to transfer over a third of their EPF contributions to the National Pension System, regulated by the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority or PFRDA. Read more…

8:54 am: How well do you know your budget history? Here are 11 landmark Union Budgets that you should know about.

8:45 am: Here’s a ready reckoner for some of the terms that will be a part of Mr. Jaitley’s long speech, that some of us may not be familiar with.

8:30 am: How long will this year’s Budget speech be? Which Finance Minister holds the dubious honour of presenting the longest budget speech, in terms of word count? Here’s a clue: it was an 18,650-word speech given 25 years ago!

8:00 am: Budgets are about numbers and best understood using charts and graphics. In case you missed it, here are the highlights of the previous Budget, captured in eight interactive charts.

7:30 am: The event provides us an opportunity to reflect on the proposals and promises that were made during last year’s Budget. We looked at some of them and checked the status of their implementation. Here’s what we found.

7:00 am: Here’s some interesting information. For Budget 2016-17, the government invited suggestions from citizens through Twitter for the first time, even conducting a series of polls to gauge public priorities and expectations from the Budget.

Here are some stories from The Hindu’s Focus Budget series and opinion pages:

— Suneet Reddy, MD, Apollo Hospitals, asks the Govt. to collect health insurance cess. “One viable way to do this is by collecting a health-insurance cess for general citizens including people below the poverty line and mandating subscription-based contributions from the organised sector. We need health savings funds, as part of salary savings, to create a corpus for individuals that would accrue over the long term without adding to their financial burdens.” Read here.

— ‘Accelerate shift to electronic payments for more revenue’. Global studies have shown the cost of cash to be between one per cent and three per cent of a country’s GDP. Given this, we are encouraged by the Government of India and RBI’s collective resolve to move to a cashless society as outlined in the Digital India vision, argues T.R. Ramachandran, Group Country Manager, India and South Asia, Visa. Full article here.

— Brotin Banerjee, MD and CEO, Tata Housing, says the GST can be a gamechanger for the real estate industry. He also says, “To achieve the objective of ‘Housing for All’, affordable housing projects should be exempted from Income Tax for seven years till 2022 and Excise and Customs Duty which constitutes 15% currently.” Read here.

— ‘Exempt airlines from MAT’. Ajay Singh, chairman, MD of SpiceJet, says airlines should be exempted from application of MAT till all the accumulated book losses (including unabsorbed depreciation) are set off against future book profits. “All the lease transactions take place outside India and there is virtually no tax revenue on this account to the Government of India. This section should be reinstated with additional benefits to Indian leasing companies and leasing transactions done in India. It will help in smooth leasing of aircraft and aircraft engines in India.” Read full article here.

— “While new policy initiatives, which may be announced during the 2016 Budget, may provide respite temporarily, improving the long-term investment environment in India requires the government and regulators to put improving corporate governance firmly on its agenda.” Here are some reasons on why the Budget needs to focus on improving corporate governance.

— Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairman and Managing Director, Biocon, says Pharma and biotech sector must get its due in Budget. She argues that a Budget that puts PM Modi’s ambitious socio-economic initiatives into action would go a long way in pulling the nation out of its current state of despondency by pushing the development agenda for India with increased vigour and scripting a new economic growth story.

— Here’s another thought. M. Govinda Rao, Emeritus Professor, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy says, “Given the pressing need for financial prudence and the equally pressing need for increasing public investment, the Finance Minister needs to raise additional resources and rationalise and target subsidies.” Read full article here.

— “French politician Georges Bidault had in some seriousness described that “a good agreement is one which leaves all parties equally dissatisfied.” No Budget can satisfy all expectations, much less aspirations. It would be judged on whether the preferred options and the balancing act are credible and compelling.” N.K. Singh, a former civil servant and Rajya Sabha MP, writes on what he expects from this Budget.



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