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Budget 2019 expectations: India Inc bets big on Modi government’s last budget

Swapna Raghu Sanand
Budget 2019-20

Budget 2019: On February 1, the Union Minister Piyush Goyal is set to present the NDA government’s last budget ahead of elections this year. For the same reason, it is not surprising that the usual high decibel buzz around Budget 2019 is slightly muted as compared to the previous years. Spanning various sectors such as the renewable energy sector, the I-T and fin-tech sector to the education sector, India Inc is looking towards a pro-growth approach in Budget 2019.

“The Union Budget 2019 will be an important one as the general elections are around the corner. Considering the current pace of growth and development in the energy sector in India, we look forward to some policy intervention to issues around import duties,” Mr Sanjay Aggarwal, MD, Fortum India told Financial Express Online.

According to Mr Deepak Maheshwari, Director – Government Affairs, India, Symantec, “India is seeing rapid adoption of technology within the government, businesses and amongst its people, most visible in government services, education, healthcare, financial services, information and entertainment via mobile devices, extending beyond interpersonal communication.”

Earlier on Thursday, President Ram Nath Kovind had highlighted the achievements of the NDA government and praised the functioning of Common Service Centres (CSCs), an integral part of the government’s Digital India initiative, to promote financial inclusion across the country.

The president had highlighted that village panchayat are now integrated with facilities such as banking, insurance and pension, among others. Simply put, technology is reaching rural areas and benefiting the common man.

In this context, a noteworthy reference to India’s rapid adoption of technology brings us to another significant question: What are India Inc’s expectations from an employment and hiring point of view?

“We expect the Union Budget to have an emphasis on ease of doing business, incentivising growth in employment and bridging the skill gap. As the contribution of flexible-staffing towards providing employment is increasing, a reduction in current GST of 18% on such services will act as a catalyst for improving overall employment. The government should increase the funds’ allocation to skilling initiatives and enable the faster rollout of schemes. We are also hopeful that the government will emphasise on simplification of compliance procedures to enhance the ease of doing business in the country. Overall, we expect the Union Budget to be pro-growth and maintain fiscal discipline.” Mr Subrata Nag, Group CEO, Quess Corp Limited stated to Financial Express Online.

Also Read: Budget 2019 Live: Litmus test for Modi government as Piyush Goyal goes for the final push

Praising the NDA government’s Make in India and Start-Up India schemes, Mr Sundararajan.S., Executive Director, i-Exceed, shared his budget 2019 wishlist with Financial Express Online. He stated his expectation for more tax sops for companies that create software intellectual property in technology platforms, software products, or software solutions. He further proposed that the government can provide benefits and tax breaks for intellectual property (IP) creation and encourage selling such platforms, products and solutions in overseas markets.

Mr Sundararajan.S. also elaborated on how neighbour countries in the Asia Pacific region have been providing various incentives to improve IP infrastructure and strengthen their innovation capabilities. For instance, Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong allow companies to claim a tax deduction of 150% to 250% of R&D spend.

“Singapore gives further incentives by taxing any revenue generated from IP at much lower tax rate and giving a subsidy of up to 30% of expenses incurred on manpower, training and material costs,” Mr Sundararajan.S. explained.

Along with adapting to global technological advancements, there is also an urgent need to take cybersecurity measures more seriously.

Referring to how cybersecurity threats are among the top four risks by the World Economic Forum in its recent report, Mr Deepak Maheshwari further explained, “India is not immune or an outlier to this trend. Hence, it would be best to design, develop and deploy an integrated cyber security and response strategy at every level and especially so, in the critical infrastructures including banking, energy, telecom and smart cities.”

“The Budget 2019 should mandate setting aside 10% of the respective technology budgets for every government project to be invested in cybersecurity as per the recommendations of the NASSCOM Task Force set up in response to the Prime Minister’s behest. In addition, the data protection law should be expedited, albeit via further consultations and aligning the same with the global best practices,” Mr Deepak Maheshwari further added.

Given that there is global recognition for NDA government’s notable initiatives in the field of renewable energy, Mr Sanjay Aggarwal, MD, Fortum India told Financial Express Online, “As a renewable energy player, we are expecting concrete policies with respect to the GST rate. Safeguard duty, ISTS project, grid approvals, cancellations of various bids and timelines of new solar parks. We would also like some provisions with respect to policy from the central government for growth in the EV sector, with respect to charging infrastructure. Together with the government, we look forward to working collaboratively by contributing towards technology and provide smart solutions to support India and make it an energy-reliant country.”

For salaried professionals, however, the expectations revolve around an increase in the basic income tax exemption limit. Women taxpayers expect a higher basic exemption. Clearly, India Inc has great expectations from Budget 2019.