New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley unveiled a budget for the poor on Monday, announcing new rural aid and health programmes in a strategy shift that could boost his ruling party in coming state elections. Here is what experts ranging from macroeconomic, infrastructure to banking sector have to say:
ATSI SHETH, ANALYST, MOODY'S INVESTORS SERVICE, SINGAPORE
"What we have heard is largely in line with the current rating and the current outlook. There was nothing too surprising in the budget. This is fairly in line with what we had expected."
"They have stuck to the fiscal deficit target. We always said fiscal consolidation would continue but slowly and that's indeed what the finance minister’s budget is saying."
"We do think fiscal policy is the weakest aspect of India's credit profile relative to other "Baa3" rated sovereigns because India has larger fiscal deficits and debt but the government are moving to correct it slowly."
"We announced a change in outlook in April 2015. An outlook change suggests that we see chances of an upward shift in the rating over 12 to 18 months. We are still within the time frame we provided in April 2015."
RADHIKA RAO, ECONOMIST, DBS, SINGAPORE
"It is encouraging to see that fiscal discipline has been given priority in Monday's budget, though we await the fine-print. Budgetary assumptions, especially nominal GDP growth will be key. Implementation of the pay commission proposals is also unclear in the speech, so more details are also sought here. Focus on rural/ social sector spending and roads/ highways are along expected lines and positive. But less-than-expected support for banks' recapitalisation has disappointed. Services tax was left unchanged and long-term capital gains tax fears were left misplaced."
ADITI NAYAR, SENIOR ECONOMIST, ICRA, NEW DELHI
"Sticking to 3.5 per cent of the fiscal deficit target reinforces the credibility of Government of India's medium term fiscal targeting. The expenditure priority outline is also within our expectations, including the focus on rural, farmer and infrastructure. Monetisation through divestment of (central public sector enterprises') individual assets would augment funds for investments, and improving the target of beneficiaries for various subsidies through greater use of Aadhar is expected to result in fiscal savings over the medium term. And we welcome the move to do away with the plan, non-plan classification from FY18 onwards."
AMITABH DUBEY, DIRECTOR, INDIA RESEARCH AT TRUSTED SOURCES, NEW DELHI
"We will have to see how they managed to hold on to the deficit target, which is a positive, while raising capital spending and rural spending."
"At first sight, it's a good budget, a fire-fighting budget. Rural demand is weak, private investment is dead in the water and of course we have a banking crisis."
"They've announced some ease of doing business measures that are positive. But in other ways, it's a classic tax-and-spend budget."
SUBBARAO AMARTHALURU, CFO, RPG GROUP, MUMBAI
"The need of the hour is to accelerate the economy and promote consumption, but this budget doesn't have anything substantial on these. It has a lot of dampeners, and no positive sentiment. I don't see anything good in this budget, except that the road sector has got some good allocation.
"The amnesty scheme on black money is not good enough, and would not encourage people to come forward. It could have been designed better."
ASHTOSH RAINA, HEAD-FX, HDFC BANK, MUMBAI
"Really excellent budget. The adherence to fiscal discipline, with emphasis on growth and development, increasing infrastructure spending... are key elements of this year's budget."
SIDDHARTHA SANYAL, INDIA ECONOMIST, BARCLAYS, MUMBAI
"Sticking to the fiscal deficit target for the moment as compared to expectations of missing the target is a big positive. The support to the rural economy and tax benefits to lower segment of income people will help in supporting consumption growth. Adhering to the 3.5 percent fiscal deficit target will be seen as a clear positive by RBI. We expect RBI to cut rates by further 50 basis points by mid-June."
MURTHY NAGARAJAN, HEAD-FIXED INCOME QUANTUM ASSET MANAGEMENT, MUMBAI
"The government has stuck to its fiscal deficit target of 3.5 percent of GDP. The debt market has taken it positively as there was some fear of the government not adhering to its fiscal deficit target as the government was keen to re-capital the banks and provide another round of capital spending to boost growth. The total gross borrowing is targeted at 6 trillion rupees, this is lower than market expectation of 6.5 trillion rupees. We expect RBI to cut repo rates by 25 basis points as RBI has stated it will look at the fiscal deficit numbers for cutting rates."
A PRASANNA, ECONOMIST, ICICI SECURITIES PRIMARY DEALERSHIP LTD, MUMBAI
"The budget has stuck to the fiscal deficit target which is a big positive. The government has broadened its priorities to social sector from investment and infrastructure as the rural economy has been suffering since the last two years. The tax projections are realistic but the divestment target looks ambitious as the government has typically struggled to achieve this. The bigger issue is whether the government will be able to pull off banking reforms which will help in boosting growth. Overall the message being set to investors is of macroeconomic stability that will help in boosting growth."
RK GUPTA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BANK OF MAHARASHTRA, NEW DELHI
"He has given a statement that they will be providing all sort of additional support wherever we require, that's a great news. Of course we were expecting he will quote some number but I think this is a better statement."
"Secondly, the other sectors in the economy like agriculture, rural economy or SME sector - adequate attention and provision has been made. If those sectors grow definitely banking will also benefit."
MILIND KOTHARI, MANAGING PARTNER AND HEAD – DIRECT TAX, BDO INDIA, MUMBAI
"The allocation for bank capitalisation of 25,000 crore rupees (250 billion rupees) is only a patch on the 1,80,000 crores that the Economic Survey has identified as the need of this vital sector. The banking sector has a major role to play in spurring private investment which is lacking and without which the all-round economic revival is not a possibility."
RAVI GOPALAKRISHNAN, HEAD - EQUITIES AT CANARA ROBECO MUTUAL FUND, MUMBAI
"Apart from the 25,000 crore rupees (for bank recapitalisation), they also mentioned as and when there is a requirement, they will come in. So, that number need not be taken as sacrosanct."
SATISH MISRA, POLITICAL ANALYST AT OBSERVER RESEARCH FOUNDATION, NEW DELHI
"Modi has been suffering from being labelled pro-corporate and pro-rich, he is now trying to correct that image through this budget."
"It is important that he attempts to make those changes to stay politically relevant because he is being hammered by the opposition on these points. You saw that in the recent election defeats in Bihar and Delhi."
"This is the beginning of a repositioning to a more populist government. In the budget speech there was a heavy stress on helping farmers and the poor."
"But it is a big risk because, if major reforms are not coming, then the economy could suffer. Big-bang reforms are nowhere on the scene right now."
ISAAC GEORGE, CFO, GVK GROUP, HYDERABAD
"It was a lacklustre budget for the infrastructure sector, except that roads got a fairly decent allocation. But there wasn't much else on infrastructure."
"Irrigation projects also got quite a boost ... because he is adding another 28 million hectares of land that can be irrigated."
"I believe roads and agriculture got the best deal."
YOGINDER K ALAGH, FARM EXPERT AND FORMER MEMBER PLANNING COMMISSION
"These steps will help our millions of farmers recover from the rough patch they have been going through but the government will have to raise its allocation for the crop insurance scheme, as the gap between farmers' cost on farming and their loss, if any, is huge.
"Although I welcome higher allocation for irrigation, we need to see its implementation. The government has been raising its irrigation spending every year, but we've failed to bring any extra area under irrigation facility. How does higher allocation help then?"
R.C. BHARGAVA, CHAIRMAN, MARUTI SUZUKI, NEW DELHI
"The vehicle manufacturers are being directed to get to Euro 6 by 2020 and vehicles contribute so little to pollution. Main pollutant in Delhi for example is PM 2.5, which is dust. Cars only contribute 2 percent to that according to IIT Kanpur study. So why only cars are being targeted for pollution, especially when they are being pushed to incur the higher cost for Euro 6 is something which is difficult to understand and accept as being fair and reasonable."
ANAND MAHINDRA, CHAIRMAN MAHINDRA GROUP, MUMBAI
"In summary, despite our disappointment on the tax on cars, I see no reason for the mayhem in the market."
"The call for a shift to investment in general infrastructure such as highways has also been answered. And fiscal targets have been maintained."
RAJEEV TALWAR, CO-CEO, DLF, NEW DELHI
"He's given a relief to affordable housing and that's a big thing because he's made that affordable housing almost an infrastructure status by giving 100 percent exemption on profits. That's a great measure for affordable housing."
"Relief for the repayment of interest as well as principal should have been to all categories of housing. Because you need not only affordable housing but you need every segment to push up demand."
HEMAL MEHTA, PARTNER , DELOITTE HASKINS &; SELLS LLP, MUMBAI
"From the speech of Finance Minister, one of the most awaited exemption of Dividend Distribution Tax on the dividend declared by the portfolio company to REIT and InvIT has been proposed. With this amendment, all the required fiscal support for REIT and InvIT to make it a reality has been done. This will support the developer and fund managers to raise funds through REIT / InvIT and create liquidity."
SANDEEP PATEL, CEO, CIGNA TTK HEALTH INSURANCE
"The budget proposal to launch a new health protection scheme will ensure penetration of health insurance and promote financial inclusion. The proposal for additional Rs30,000 health cover for senior citizens will help reduce the burden of healthcare expenditure for the aged."
NILAYA VERMA, HEAD OF HEALTHCARE AT CONSULTANTS KPMG INDIA, NEW DELHI
"It's directionally progressive because of increase in insurance coverage, but what the sector needs is a roadmap. How will the rural (health) infrastructure, and a shortage of doctors and nurses be fixed? We need more details of how healthcare will be made accessible for more people."
SHEFALI GORADIA, PARTNER, BMR & ASSOCIATES LLP, MUMBAI
"It's disappointing that the corporate tax rate that they had talked about last year has not been reduced. Instead, the levy of the tax on dividend is disturbing because it goes against the thread of certainty and stability that this government has been talking about. If you keep changing these things it sends a wrong signal to investors."
"The measures on setting up dispute resolution panels are not yet well understood, because there were few details."
"The reduction of the long term capital gains period from three years to two years is a big positive."