Budget Delights For The Youth!

The wait for the Budget 2008-09 had been more anticipated than the Filmfare or the Oscars! From the corporate honchos to the “aam aadmi”, everybody hoped that they would get a fair deal, since the Government was looking at presenting a “populist” Budget. A lot has been written about how the new Budget will impact the households, investors, taxpayers and even the elections. However, does the Finance Minister’s bag of goodies, have any gifts for us- the youth?

Well, for starters, I am extremely happy with Mr. Chidambaram’s decision to bring non-filter cigarettes on par with filter cigarettes which attract higher taxes. For the smaller non-filter cigarettes not exceeding 60 mm length, the excise duty has been increased nearly five times to Rs 819 per 1,000 cigarettes from prevailing Rs 168.

On the contrary, for the longer cigarettes, the excise duty has been increased by over two and half times to Rs 1,323 from Rs 546 for every 1,000 sticks. This means that, beginning from today, all those who decide to flash a cigarette as a style statement, may have to think twice before doing so. Most importantly the new excise duty will definitely “burn” a hole in any chain smoker’s pocket, and might even force them to kick the habit!

For those of us who had lost all hopes of driving our father’s cars, Mr. Chidambaram has finally taken pity on us. He has proposed to cut excise duty from 16% to 12% on small cars. Within 24 hours, leading manufacturers Hyundai Motor India and General Motors announced that they would slash prices by up to Rs 16,000 to pass on benefits from the excise duty cut announced in the Budget, to the consumers.

There is also good news for those of us who have spent hours standing in front of showrooms salivating at the sights of all those glossy motorcycles. Instead of just window shopping we can actually go ahead and buy those dream machines as Mr. Chidambaram has decided on reducing the excise duty on two wheelers as well.

Eyeing that hi-tech fancy mobile that your friend just bought? Well as it goes, your friend is luckier than you are, because the Government hasdecided to levy a 1% excise duty on all mobile handsets. In his Budget speech, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said: “Excise duty of one per cent, called National Calamity Contingent Duty, is now imposed on polyester filament yarn, which is the only yarn suffering this excise duty. I propose to remove that duty and shift the levy to cellular mobile phones.” Tough luck huh?

This year Internet access will prove costly, hence caution for the web freaks! During his Budget proposals Chidambaram proposed raising the excise duty on packaged software from 8 per cent to 12 per cent. That would definitely translate into fewer youngsters spending hours and hours on the internet (I see parents beaming already!).

Finally an incentive for all of us who have been struggling to lose weight! The Budget spelt good news for manufacturers of sports goods as Chidambaram proposed varied customs duty sops for makers of these items. This means that Adidas, Reebok, Nike, Puma are not out of our reach anymore. With this piece of information, you can pamper yourself with fancy sportswear and hit the jogging track without being “weighed” down by the price tags.

After the announcement of yesterday’s Budget, there has been some heartburn, but the larger picture is brighter than we had hoped. Chidambaram has taken all pains to ensure no one feels left out, not even the youth! The Sensex may have shed some points and there are doubts about the sustainability of the Rs. 60,000 crore tax waivers for farmers, but there is definitely a feel good factor to this year’s Budget. I am sure that you would agree with me, that P. Chidambaram has proven to be the Indian version of Santa Claus who lived up to everyone’s expectations.

Anam Mittra