The finance minister has been a wonderful architect to Prime Minister Modi’s vision of an India for the future. As I look at the Budget from the point of view of the economy and capital markets, five key themes emerge.
A significant push to drive investment, particularly in infrastructure. At this stage of our economy, investments have slowed down significantly and we needed a big boost to investment in infrastructure. The Budget has made a significant effort to increase investment in infrastructure through both the Budget itself and also through public sector companies’ allocating significantly more resources for investments.
The Budget is a big plus for the financial sector. There have been a number of moves announced in this Budget which will boost the financial sector. Setting up of a holding company for public sector banks; increasing the focus on monetization of gold through the financial sector; focusing clearly on the importance of debit cards and credit cards as a key basis for transactions of the future; merger of FMC into SEBI; significant benefits for real estate investment trusts (REITs), again, through the alternate investment platform; all very significant steps which will help the strengthening of the Indian financial sector
Move away from cash. The Budget discourages cash transactions. Therefore, it will bring a lot of the informal money into the formal sector. This is good for resources for India and Indians in the future.
Simplification of the tax regime. No major changes and a path to a lower corporate tax over the next four years. Again, the middle class has been fully protected. The rich in India, with incomes above Rs.1 crore, will pay a little more but save on wealth tax. So the ‘keep it simple’ tax philosophy is very good for the long term.
The fiscal deficit for 2015-16, which was earlier anticipated to be 3.6%, may be higher at 3.9%. I do not think this is a big factor, but it will have some implications on the fact that the RBI may drop interest rates a little slower than anticipated earlier. But from the point of financial savings, this is not necessarily a bad thing because savers will continue to get better returns. Also, I am happier with a slightly higher deficit at a time like this if more money can go into investments.
All in all, I think the Budget has a longer term vision. It is something which I think will clearly help the making of India, and that is something which is important for us. I would request investors to invest long-term. This is not a quick, hit-and-run Budget; this is a Budget by an architect who is building a new India just as Prime Minister Modi wants to build a 100 smart cities. So invest patiently for the long-term; I am extremely excited about the future of India over the next five or ten years.
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