Union Budget 2015-16: What to Expect

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The serving Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley will present his second Budget as finance minister in Parliament today. The Union Budget is a form of financial blueprint for the nation, listing proposed expenditures and revenues for a one year period as well as a revised estimate of the same for the previous year.

Jaitely will deliver a long speech to present the same, with every word leaving its mark on the economy as stock markets remain open in spite of the weekend. The sensex will in all likelihood hit and cross the 30k mark. While the latter alone will make several happy, including the less budget-aware as myself who simply enjoy watching the numbers tick upwards, it is the promise of reforms that investors across the globe will be counting on.

As ministers across the cabinet drip feed glimpses of fiscal policy to the media and public, one starts to piece together expectations from this Budget.

Firstly, one is hoping for improved tax regimes with the promise of more cash in hand for taxpayers at the end of the yearBusinesses too stand a lot to benefit from improved taxation policy, as many have often complained of India’s tax environment as a hostile one.

Secondly, we may see more NRI-friendly measures to promote investment. Sushma Swaraj appealed to the NRI community at a gathering in Oman to join in the growth story and aid in spurring foreign investment into the country.

Finally, the tiger in the room, will be the Make In India initiative, with its promise of rebuilding (and rebranding) India as a manufacturing hub for the world. Global investors will be waiting to see how Jaitley plans on spinning this promise into the budget before they let their wallets start to talk.

The content matters, enough so that inputs for Jaitley’s speech are among the documents recovered by the police in the fast-developing story of corporate espionage in the ministries of power, coal and oil. Among the twelve who have been arrested so far are officials from some of the topmost energy companies in the country, including Reliance and Essar, as well as government officials and former journalists who have been alleged to have often sold such leaked information for lakhs at a time.

Controversy is to be expected with a budget of this scale and importance. In the week to come, we can expect much banter between the government and the opposition – who may unite across parties against key issues such as the land acquisition act. Whether they can leave their mark in this coalition-free Lok Sabha remains to be seen, with their numbers pointing to more bark than bite. Indeed, the Opposition seems relatively subdued so far.

Jaitley may well have the last word in terms of passing this Budget before its April deadline. While his last budget was famously called Chidambaram budget with a dash of saffron lipstickin S.A. Aiyar’s reputed Swaminomics column, this one promises to keep everybody happy. In Jaitley’s own words, “India cannot be divided into two different schools of thought. There is a stance for the businesses, there is a stance for the poor people.”

Varun Ramesh

Image source: The Viewspaper