What are the three things you want to see in the Budget?
The first thing I really would like to see in Budget 2008 is policies geared to sustainable development of the agrarian economy.
This would help create a balanced growth which, in turn, will help in a more equitable wealth distribution. What this will ultimately lead to is greater purchasing power among a majority of the population.
Next on my agenda would be a major emphasis on infrastructure investment. Currently, it is estimated that India will require an investment of more than $450 billion (Rs18 trillion) in the next five years. This would ensure that our economy is growing at a steady rate. This would help in the long-term growth of our economy.
Thirdly, coming against the backdrop of robust economic growth over the past few years, as the FM, I would seize this opportunity to give a thrust to social welfare programmes to boost education, abolition of poverty, employment, and health and family welfare.
Last, but not the least, would be to control inflation, fiscal deficit and interest rates.
If you could end?one aspect?of the Budget, what?would that be?
I would end the dividend distribution tax, as it is nothing but double taxation. Removal of the dividend distribution tax will also give the markets a boost.
Alternatively, necessary amendments must be made to avoid double taxation.
If you were finance minister, what would be the one thing outside your industry you would want in the Budget?
Substantial financial incentives for air, road and rail transportation business—since lack of these facilities impacts negatively the future growth of the country.
What is the one thing you don’t want changed?
We need to continue with the increased investment in rural development and employment generation.
These have still not attracted the kind of investment they deserve.
We have to ensure that the implementation is robust and the benefits reach the intended beneficiaries. Also, the current investment mode is still very traditional.
There is need to radically change the way we look at these two foundations of our economy. No amount of global successes can undermine this basic necessity. Continued and increased investment in these two areas will also help reduce the urban-rural disparity.
Which budget disappointed you the most? Why?
Last year’s budget; it was a maintenance budget—(and had) no new incentive to propel the country into long-term growth.
One proposal you think is shot down in every budget, but shouldn’t be?
Reduction in marginal income-tax rate—this will improve collections beyond expectation. It will also improve voluntary tax compliance and tax administration.
What would you consider to be inclusive growth?
A growth which reduces the economic disparity between the haves and have-nots; that which ensures that the poor benefit from all economic developments, and that the funds are not misused/misappropriated in the middle.
This again links back to some of the issues already discussed above.
A.P. Hinduja is chairman, Hinduja Group India.