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Interim Budget could have income tax cuts
February, 16th 2009

Policy wise, the one that will be unveiled today is unlikely to be a big-bang interim budget. CNBC-TV18s Economic Policy Editor Vivian Fernandes reports.

However, the hope of income tax cuts makes the Budget exciting. The industry has been saying that if there is a cut, people will have more money to invest and buy though given the current gloom, it is likely people will spend.

Can there be income tax cut at the Interim Budget? There could be, if Lalu Yadavs Railway Budget presented on Friday is an indication because there was nothing interim about it.

But one expects Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his proxy Pranab Mukherjee to be constitutionally correct and even though there is no constitutional bar, the 11 interim budgets presented so far did not make changes in direct taxes for R Venkatramans 1980 budget that gave three innocuous exceptions. Even Jaswant Singhs in 2004 proposed or suggested an increase in standard deduction for salary taxpayers but did not seek Parliaments approval for it.

It is just not right for Parliament on its last leg to bind the one that succeeds and one does not get the indication from officials that Pranab Mukherjee will act to the contrary.

As far as economic stimulus is concerned, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia has said, on at least two occasions, that there is need for a big one and it will happen in the budget after the elections if this government returns to power.

Even Commerce Minister Kamal Nath who has been the champion in the cause of exporters seems to have changed his stand. On Friday, he said that sops will not help exporters because their distress is on account of shrinkage in global orders.

In any case, if the National Highway Authority has not delivered or with rural road scheme is languishing it is not for want of money. It is certain that social sectors will get more allocation. The Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh has said that he has sought Rs 10,000 crore for the National Rural Employment Scheme for three months, which adds up to Rs 40,000 crore for the whole year up from Rs 30,000 crore now, the only Rs 18,000 crore has been spent. But the problem with the flagship programme says that they are not short of money, they are fully funded.

Manmohan Singhs 1987 Interim Budget was an achievement so expect this one to be economic manifesto tall on talk.

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