By Irfan Razack
At the outset, it’s a positive Budget; the FM has gone all out in terms of capex, with respect to healthcare, agriculture, infrastructure, railways, roadways and MSMEs. Financial reforms are praiseworthy, for there hasn’t been any tinkering of existing tax slabs and thus ensuring the stability of sorts in the tax structure from the previous financial year. Much like the old adage, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Taxation reforms are welcome, such as the time limit for reopening cases reduced to three years from six. Serious tax offences of concealment of income of over Rs 50 lakh can be reopened after 10 years. Making income tax appellate tribunals faceless and setting up of national income tax appellate tribunal centre is welcome. These reforms foster a better, healthier relationship between the ombudsman and assesses. Tax assessment is also due to be reformed with what’s proposed in the Budget. This, in turn, will aid in reducing corruption, scaremongering and extortion, whilst shoring up government coffers.
Disinvestments in PSUs are a welcome change, be it the Air India or privatisation of airports and giving the industry a fillip. Governments ought to govern and not run a business, and this is in keeping with the government’s promise of ‘minimum government, maximum governance’.
With current market conditions and amidst the global pandemic, it’s noteworthy that there hasn’t been any despondency or scale back on expenditure towards developmental activities. This will lead to more investments, more jobs, and more taxes. Thankfully, there is no proposal to increase taxes, both indirect and direct, though a huge outlay of expenditure is proposed.
The government’s focus on affordable housing and rental housing is laudable. The tax exemption for the same—be it on the interest payable on the housing loan for affordable housing extended by one more year and the tax holiday for companies producing affordable housing—is a clear indication of the government’s priorities on housing for all by 2022.
With infrastructure being propped up, we can expect better mobility of the masses, what with better public transport and transit getting a mention in this year’s Budget and thus reducing the stress on existing infrastructure. This will aid the development of spaces that are away from CBD (central business districts), and thus ensure cities aren’t developed in certain specific pockets like city centres alone.
A better community living as a result of such reforms is plausible, and will certainly help the supply side for housing and create more liveable and hygienic cities and urban areas. In conclusion, the Budget could not have been any better, given the circumstances we are in.
(Writer is Chairman & Managing Director of Prestige Group)