Arun Jaitley spelt out his intentions to bring about "civility" in tax regime, rationalise the subsidy system, maintain low taxes and boost infrastructure and housing to expand economy while providing more for social sector programmes.
Replying to the debate on the General Budget in the Lok Sabha, he said the government had no qualms about being "pro-business", asserting that it was necessary for generating more revenues and increasing spending that would benefit the poor and marginalised sections of the society.
The Union Budget 2014 was later approved by the House.
Justifying the provisions in the Budget aimed at attracting private investments, including FDI in various sectors like Defence and Insurance, the Finance Minister said these were necessary to boost the industry and manufacturing within the country that would lead to job creation.
The government is trying to restore confidence of domestic and foreign investors by bringing "civility" in taxation system and remove the perception of "tax terrorism", he said while noting that investors over the last few years had developed "doubts" over the India story in the backdrop of unpredictable tax regime.
"There are a series of steps that we have to take. The budget was only some of those steps. It was directional. It only shows direction. There will be many steps which will be taken outside the budget. It is not necessary that everything is announced in the budget," he said.
The minister also expressed the hope that interest will soften with moderation in inflation. "Interest rates have gone up because inflation is high. I hope interest rate comes down (with decline in inflation)", he added.
Jaitley sid there has been a marginal improvement in various economic parameters like exports, capital inflows and industrial sector as per the recent data.
He said this could not be termed as a "trend" but early signs of recovery.
Modest improvement in growth rate is likely in the current fiscal, he said, adding an increase in economic expansion of 7-8 per cent and subsequent buoyancy in tax collection would be help him allocate more resources for social sector schemes.
Jaitley said he preferred low taxes to encourage economic activity. "If you put higher taxes on products, people will buy products from outside. Lower taxes will increase economic activities," he said.
During the course of his reply, Jaitley announced Rs 2,000 crore special fund under NABARD for food parks, Rs 50 crore for setting up of drug de-addiction centres in Punjab and restoring accelerated depreciation to encourage wind energy sector.
He also promised more funds for resettlement of Kashmiri Pandits over and above Rs 500 crore earmarked in the budget.
Referring to the housing sector, the Minister said he would endeavour to bring about a situation wherein buying a house would be cheaper than taking one on rent.
In his budget, Jaitley raised the tax exemption on home loan repayment from Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 2 lakh per annum. Following the initiatives taken by the government, RBI too had provided incentives to banks to extend loans to affordable housing at cheaper rates.
On the subsidy policy, the Minister felt it was lopsided as even well off people avail of it through schemes like education scholarship and oil, putting more burden on the exchequer.
"We have reached a situation where subsidy burden is too high...subsidies at times can become unquantifiable amount given to unidentified people. It is this situation which we need to correct," he said.
* Retrospective taxation destablised business; it is a lesson to learn: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
* We need to correct lopsided subsidy policy, Jaitley says in Lok Sabha
* Series of steps needed to check inflation and promote growth; Budget only gives broad direction: Jaitley.
* Govt will honour all commitments made by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for Andhra Pradesh and Telangana: Jaitley.
* We want to incentivise people to buy their own house; want to reach a situation where buying one is cheaper than taking on rent: Jaitley
* Jaitley earmarks Rs 50 crore for setting up de-addiction centres in Punjab.