Cut sops, widen tax base, says Jayaram Ramesh

New Delhi, Jan 26 | Updated: Jan 27 2005, 07:06am hrs
The government should do away with tax exemptions and, at the same time, widen the tax base to bring in more revenue to the coffers, advisory member to the National Advisory Council Jayaram Ramesh told FE.

Efforts are required to reduce cost of paying taxes. It is rather sad that there are only 75,000 people in the Rs 10 lakh tax bracket in a country like India, he said. Efforts are on to bring defaulting shopkeepers under the tax net and a survey has already been made in this regard.

Schemes like the VDIS should be done away and all tax exemptions should be cut down, he said. As exports are booming the government could also consider bringing down allowances and exemptions made to them. The focus of this Budget will be on the social sector as promised in the national common minimum programme (NCMP), he said.

The Budget would consequently see an increased public expenditure on public health and education. The country needs a national health service type scheme, as that of UK, to improve the outreach of health services, he added.

There have been delays in raising the foreign direct investment (FDI) cap in telecom from 49% to 74% due to objections from the defence ministry. However, this cap is likely to be raised in the coming fiscal, he said. As far as insurance is concerned there is no likelihood of raising the cap on disinvestment, Mr Ramesh added.

The recent meeting of finance minister P Chidambaram with Congress leaders gave a forum to about 38 office bearers and members of Parliament to talk about issues like agriculture, rural credit, co-operatives, handloom, weavers and artisans, fishermen and tribals. This was the first meeting of its kind where the finance minister took the views of various political representatives lasting over two and a half hours, he said.