The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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As good as it gets, beam barons

Union finance minister Jaswant Singh seems to have fared quite well in his maiden budget as he walked a tightrope between growth and fiscal deficit on the one hand and economic reforms and upcoming elections on the other. He has tried to consolidate revenues, keep India Inc happy, put money in the consumerís purse. He has focussed on core sectors which, in turn, is expected to facilitate growth in the economy.

Rahul Bajaj

CMD, Bajaj Auto

Rating: 9.5/10

This year the Union budget has proved to be outstanding and well-balanced. I cannot be critical. The finance minister, Jaswant Singh, has taken into account the overall growth and development, revenue consolidation and the need to keep individuals and corporate happy. He has taken care of the democratic aspirations of the people; if its populist, what is wrong with that' Some people think thatís a very negative thing to do. However, ultimately everything will depend on the implementation of his proposals.


Kumar Mangalam Birla

Chairman, AV Birla group

Rating: 8/10

This is a positive budget given the current environment. The focus on infrastructure is positive and it will be a big boost for the core sector. In addition, the special pension policy for senior citizens with an annual return of 9 per cent shows that it has a human face too. Further, the proposal to permit overseas investment to the tune of 100 per cent of a firmís networth is a welcome move. The simplification of tax filing procedures like online filing of income tax returns and liberalised overseas investment regime are all forward looking. The consumer is said to benefit.


Sanjiv Goenka

VC, RPG Enterprises

Rating: 10/10

The budget is an excellent piece of economic engineering. It leaves more money in the hands of the consumer by raising standard deduction and removing the surcharge. The FM has sought to correct some imbalances which had emerged in the economy by way of providing higher expenditures for sectors, including infrastructure, health, and education and creating better environment for industries like telecom and pharmaceuticals. Next year, it should be possible to achieve 8 per cent industrial growth.


Kiran Karnik

President, Nasscom

Rating: 8/10

We are delighted that the government has accepted our recommendations with regard to full exemption of taxes on export profits and also excluding demergers and amalgamations from the provisions of sections 10A/10B. This is a very positive development and will help the Indian IT and ITES industry to further enhance their global competitiveness and spur creation of new enterprises. We welcome the governmentís move to exclude excise duty on pre-loaded software which will help reduce software piracy in India. This will boost the usage of legal software.


Onkar S Kanwar

MD, Apollo Tyres

Rating: 8/10

The budget is very good for the infrastructural development and road development in particular. Excise duty reduction from 32 to 24 per cent, is very good for the tyre industry and our company has already announced that it is immediately going to pass on the benefit of this to the consumer. There will be a spurt in economic activity. the finance minister, Jaswant Singh, could not have done a better job. The implementation of the value-added-tax is a very encouraging thing for the industry.


Pramod Mittal

CMD, Ispat Industries

Rating: 8/10

This is a wonderful budget, which has given direction and impetus to growth of the economy. The budget is extremely supportive to industry and it will take the reforms ahead. For Jaswant Singh, it is a successful effort. It gives a massive scope to address the concerns of all major sectors of the economy. He has looked into construction, power, roads, water, textiles and especially the infrastructure sector. These would go a long way in energising the Indian economy as a whole. The budget will help the steel industry to bounce back into a strong growth track.


Sunil Bharti Mittal

CMD Bharti Enterprises

Rating: 8/10

Overall it is a good budget with a major thrust on infrastructure and development including healthcare, which is good for the economy. Enhanced spending on infrastructure will have a positive impact on the manufacturing industry as a whole. The decision to combine public and private interest to improve infrastructure is a major step in the direction. Specifically for the telecom sector, reduction in duty on optical fibre cables and capital goods is a good move. There is a big jump in service tax from 5% to 8%. We hope, with this the licence fee of the telecom players will be reduced.


A C Muthiah

Chairman, SPIC Ltd

Rating: 10/10

This is a very well constructed Union budget presented by Jaswant Singh, which gives boost to infrastructure, focus on health, fiscal consolidation, value-added-tax simplification, reduction in excise duties which will all go to create more demand. On customs duties front also the budget is conducive for the industry. For agriculture too, it is a well-formulated budget. The budget is also good for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), textiles and jewellery, which happen to be large scale employers as well.


A.K. Purwar

Chairman, State Bank

Rating: 8.5/10

This is a growth-oriented and investor-friendly budget. It is expected to maintain the growth momentum and will encourage the consolidation of the banking industry. The offer to buyback high cost government securities and linking this to the NPAs of banks will strengthen the banking sector. He has taken a big step in permitting banks to invest in private sector banks and the promised review of the removal of the ceiling of 10 per cent voting rights will spur overseas investment into this sector. Merger benefits extended to PSU banks will help in consolidation of weaker banks.


Ajay G Piramal

Chairman, NPIL

Rating: 9/10

Jaswant Singh has presented a growth-oriented budget, with a strong fiscal and consumer stimulus package. Though the fiscal and budget deficit is larger than in recent years, the price cuts and benefits to tax payers will give a boost to the overall industrial and economic growth. The package of Rs 60,000 crore and the public private partnership promised for infrastructure development should offer a considerable stimulus to demand and growth. He has indicated a clear change in the direction of indirect taxes.


Alok Vajpeyi

President, DSP Merrill Lynch

Rating: 9/10

In walking the tightrope between growth and fiscal problem, the much needed economic reform and the political imperatives, Jaswant Singh has done an admirable job. His plan on promoting growth through focussed expenditure on infrastructure ó roads, ports, power, airports, railways, tourism, health and sanitation ó was beyond expectations. The demand created will help many industries, which in turn will boost the economy. The question is on the revenue side where the finance minister has promised rationalisation of the tax process and its simplification.


Vishwavir Ahuja

MD, BoA in India

Rating: 7/10

A reforms and development oriented budget with key focus being on investment in infrastructure, strengthening of financial and capital markets, banking sector reforms and streamlining of tax administration. The step to increase foreign direct investment limits in private and foreign banks from 49 per cent to 74 per cent will be welcomed, as also the removal of the limit of 10 per cent on voting rights. The biggest negative is the continued high fiscal deficit situation, estimated at 5.6 per cent of GDP.


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