An investor's guide to Budget 2012: What one can expect
February, 22nd 2012
I understand that the choices before Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee are so limited that if he tries to offer immediate gratification to investors by announcing deep and bold tax cuts, he might end up putting India's longer-term prospects at risk.
So will the market response to the budget, considered the litmus test of how a finance minister has measured up against expectations, be misleading this year? Come March 16, investor expectations are already building up on several key points such as GST, DTC and even FDI in multi-brand retail to 51% at least.
Right now, an investor can claim exemption of capital gains arising from the transfer of long-term capital assets by investing in certain long-term specified assets within a period of six months after the date of transfer. Consider reducing short-term capital gains.
When foreign investors look at India, one of the primary things they look at is fiscal discipline. If the government's intention on reforms and fiscal consolidation is to be taken seriously, then a positive budget can be a positive trigger for the market in the medium-term. We also want to know how the broadening of the tax base is going to happen and the extent of money the government will spend on subsidies.
Also please consider setting free diesel price controls now. While petrol prices are market-determined subject to periodic revisions, it is diesel which constitutes a lion's share of fuel subsidy bills driven by demand for fuel and industrial purposes.
How about convincing the opposition and some of your own members about the positive impact of introducing FDI in multi-brand retail? This segment could go a long way in supporting the government's initiatives to de-bottleneck the supply chain hindered by ineffective distribution channels. So here is a confession from a die-hard investor. If you want people to stop suppressing their unaccounted money have a higher tax exemption limit. Look on the bright side; the exchequer gets more revenue. In short, let's have speedy implementation of reforms which in turn will tame our fiscal deficit which in turn will bring down inflation, which in turn will see India shining once again. I'm not asking for too much am I? NRI expectations
The finance ministry is considering allowing individual foreign investors to directly buy corporate bonds issued by Indian companies. As an NRI, I would like the finance minister to extending this regime to debt which will complete the reforms agenda for overseas investors.
Foreign investor expectations Currently, foreign individuals are allowed to invest in Indian corporate bonds only as a sub-account of a foreign institutional investor (FII). The FIIs, in turn, needs to go to Sebi and apply on their behalf. Direct investment will not only make the process simpler, but also less expensive.