I was spot-on, in saying that no fireworks could be expected.
Now let see some of the important budget provisions and find out what they mean for you, me and the financial markets.
1. India Infrastructure Finance Corporation Limited (IIFCL) has been granted flexibility in raising finances and lending to infrastructure projects, meaning that it has been left to fend for itself.
2. The allocation for NHAI has been increased by 23%. Good move this would help in the development of national highways.
3. Farmers, the darlings of the politicians (that's not because they are voters but because most of the parliamentarians and politicians are farmers themselves!) have been offered an interest subvention @ 7% and a 1% subsidy for prompt payment (this means the effective borrowing rate fr farmers is 6% and they are not required to pay income tax too). It pays to be a farmer in India.
4. The Market development assistance for exporters in the form of interest subvention on pre-shipment credit extended up to 31st March 2010. Our finance ministry expects the global crisis to blow over by then and then we will be charging the same interest rate for our exporters as other manufacturers.
5. SARAL-2 will be introduced this year. Have you ever heard of a simplified simple tax form. here it is!
6. NREGA the wonder child of Congress (How come the name does not start with Nehru-Gandhi name?) has been allocated Rs.39100 crores (Rs. 391,000,000,000) this year. Lets do a small analysis. NREGA guarantees 100 days of gainful employment for one individual in every household in rural areas and pays Rs. 100 per day per head. This amounts to wages of Rs. 10000 per household for a year. So if Rs.391 billion have to be spent then this money is expected to cater to 39.1 million households, out of approx 197 million households as per the official census of 2001. The corollary of this is that 20% of our population is in abject poverty and is not capable of raising Rs.10000 per household in rural areas. If this is true then Shame on us. If this is not true then, there seems to be a problem with the way our government works.
7. A national mission on women's literacy is being set up and it will help in reducing illiteracy amongst women in the next three years. WOW a commendable job.
8. Students who take loans for education will enjoy a moratorium on interest payments till they finish their course. That is a great thing and it will go a long way in helping poor students to educate themselves.
9. A public Private Partnership is being envisaged in managing the good old employment exchange. That is a great idea, all you private placement consultants and naukri.com better watch out big brother has just entered the fray and he will gobble you up.
10. The Unique Identity Number project has been allotted Rs. 1.2 billion to start its operations. That will kick start the operations but we need more money to count the number of people in this country and provide smart cards for each of them.
11. GROSS FISCAL DEFICIT is expected to be 6.8% of GDP and the Gross State Domestic Product limit has been raised to 4%. Mr. Finance Minister Sir, your targeted Fiscal deficit was 3% and you went on to stretch it to 6.8%. How can you expect your counterparts in the State Governments who take pride in profligacy to contain themselves to 4%?
12. Direct Taxes: Individual Income tax slab at the lowest level has been raised by Rs.10000 for male individuals and women. The lowest slab for senior citizens has been raised to Rs. 240,000, a raise of Rs. 15,000. For the HNIs the surcharge of 10% is abolished. Here the people in the middle tax bracket seem to have got the wrong end of the stick.
13. Fringe Benefit Tax has been abolished. Now your company will allow you to go on tour and spend money and not worry about paying FBT on part of the amount you spent on that junket.
14. Commodities Transaction Tax is abolished. I don't know what to say. the government keeps banning commodities trading whenever it sees a flare-up in commodities prices. So the right question would be which commodity is being allowed to trade right now to understand the impact of abolishing CTT. Any way removing CTT will help commodity exchanges and help stock brokers to start commodity terminals as a hedge against the failing fortunes in the stock broking industry.
15. Minimum Alternative Tax: the MAT under which corporate growth has been swept under by the previous finance minister has just got bigger. MAT has been increased to 15%. There is no incentive for tax management using the growth=depreciation route now. THE SINGLE LARGEST REASON FOR THE STOCK MARKETS TO REACT THE WAY THEY DID IN RESPONSE TO THE BUDGET.
16. Thankfully there have been no major changes in indirect taxes.
17. GST to be operational from 1st April 2010. Good move. GST to be bifurcated to central GST and State GST. BAD MOVE. This means we are going back to the good old days when we had central sales tax and state sales tax. so in Karnataka instead of CST and KST we will have CGST and KGST. (How to share the spoils of the tax revenue amongst the centre and the state could have been kept in wraps and a common GST would have been better)
That's about it. As far as disinvestment is concerned, no specific announcement was made.
Moral of the story: More the things change, more they remain the same. The 1991 wave of reforms was not of Congress manufacturing, but out of compulsion of the IMF. Now that the economy is strong enough to withstand the perils of global financial meltdown we can do it our way, the NEHRUVIAN WAY. In fact, at one time the Finance Minister was singing paeans to Mrs. Indira Gandhi, for having the grand vision of financial crisis 40 years back and resorting to nationalisation of banks.
WOW I am very happy that we had such visionary leaders who could predict turmoils four decades ahead. Our FM needs to read a little of modern economics and find out that this financial crisis happened to US because the Glass Steagall Act was repealed in 1999. There was no way how our Prime Minister could envision that this would happen in 1979.
Now for the markets, the immediate support for the markets is 3800 on the NIFTY. Nifty has to fill the gap it created on that euphoric morning after the budget first. Then lets see if a plunge protection team is formed and whether it works else we will see the October 2008 bottoms again.