Pre-Budget meet: Infrastructure sector demands rationalisation of GST, easier bank credit, hike in public expenditure

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The infrastructure industry on Monday demanded rationalisation of Goods and Services Tax (GST), easier bank credit and a hike in public expenditure at the customary pre-budget meeting with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) in its presentation to the Finance Minister has sought a reduction of levies and taxes on the telecom sector amid new new-age 5G networks and services roll out across the country.

“…our demand for cost reduction should be looked at expeditiously,” Director General of COAI SP Kochhar said after the online meeting of the infrastructure industry experts with the Finance Minister.

The telecom industry has also pitched for rationalisation of GST, reduction of licence fee to one per cent from three per cent and lowering of customs duty on equipment.

COAI counts telecom operators like Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea as its members.

According to sources, the representatives of the auto industry sought the government’s support in terms of long-term policies for establishing India as a strong electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing base.

They also pitched for government support to the EV companies for reskilling the workforce.

The Federation of Indian Micro and Small & Medium Enterprises (FISME) was of the view that the bank loan rating (BLR) requirement is proving to be a great dampener in the growth of MSMEs and sought immediate intervention in setting up a joint committee of the RBI, banks and stakeholders to develop a unique rating model for MSMEs, which focuses on solvency alone.

Observing that some private sector banks levy pre-payment penalties (four per cent) on MSMEs who try to change the bank if unsatisfied with poor services, FISME made a plea to form a task force to study the extent of the spread of the malice and suggest remedial measures in a time bound manner.

Industry body PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI) suggested that infrastructure investments in the country must not be less than 10 per cent of the GDP to achieve state-of-the-art infrastructure and become a developed economy by 2047.

CII pitched for setting up separate SPVs in the infrastructure sector in a bid to execute individual infrastructure projects due to the mandate of tender conditions issued by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).

Sitharaman kicked off pre-budget consultations by holding meetings with industry chamber heads and infrastructure experts on their expectations from the upcoming Budget.

The meetings were held virtually and Union Ministers of State for Finance Pankaj Chaudhary, Bhagwat Kishanrao Karad and other senior officials also attended the meeting.

“Union Finance Minister Smt. @nsitharaman chairs her 1st #PreBudget2023 consultation with the first group of captains from Industry & experts of #Infrastructure and #ClimateChange, in New Delhi, today,” the Ministry of Finance said in a tweet.

“The 2nd #PreBudget2023 meeting is being attended by MoS Finance Shri @mppchaudhary and Dr @DrBhagwatKarad ; Finance Secretary Dr T.V. Somanathan; Secretaries of DEA, @SecyDIPAM, DoR, @DFS_India, CEA Dr Anantha Nageswaran & Senior Economic Advisor @FinMinIndia,” it added.

The participants gave suggestions on the 2023-24 Budget, which will be presented in Parliament by the Finance Minister on February 1.

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