Budget 2019: Expected concrete initiatives to revitalise telecom sector in interim budget, rues COAI

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New Delhi | Updated: February 1, 2019 10:19:03 PM

India Union Budget 2019: "The Interim Budget 2019-20 is truly pragmatic and we laud the government's vision and commitment towards Digital India and the Digital economy," Rajan S Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI) said.

Budget 2019-20Finance Minister Piyush Goyal, also a chartered accountant, presented the Interim Budget for 2019-20 on Friday.

Union Budget 2019: Industry body Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) on Friday expressed disappointment that the telecom sector, which is facing financial difficulties, did not receive significant support in the Interim Budget despite being the backbone of the country’s economy.

“Though several significant reforms were articulated, touching multiple industries, considering the given financial position the telecom sector is reeling under, and the economic backbone that the sector provides to the economy and almost all industries, we expected concrete targeted initiatives to revitalise this sector,” Rajan S Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) said in a statement.

The finance minister spoke extensively about investing in infrastructure such as road, railway, highways, electricity amongst others, geared to target a 10 trillion dollar economy, noted Mathews, but rued that the telecom sector “did not receive significant support” in the Budget.

“The Interim Budget 2019-20 is truly pragmatic and we laud the government’s vision and commitment towards Digital India and the Digital economy,” he said. The COAI also lauded the initiatives including the government’s plans to turn one lakh villages into digital villages over the next 5 years and national programme on ‘Artificial Intelligence’ (AI).

READ ALSO | Budget 2019: Modi government’s success in direct transfer of benefits doesn’t reflect in subsidy numbers given in budget

Over the past few years, India’s telecom market had become cut-throat where nearly a dozen players jostled for market share, pummelling the call rates to among the lowest in the world. Competition has only intensified since 2016, when Reliance Jio Infocomm, owned by India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, stormed into the market and offered free calls and dirt cheap data.

Hit by intense competition and regulatory uncertainty, most telecom companies are in a turmoil as they attempt to retain market by matching dirt-cheap tariffs at the cost of eroding profits and taking on debt.

Recently, billionaire Kumar Mangalam Birla, head of India’s biggest telecom company, Vodafone Idea Ltd has sent an SOS to the government for deferring statutory payments in a sector that is not generating enough cash to even service loans.

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