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Finance reforms put on track
September, 12th 2009

Since the new government took over, the finance ministry has been occupied with reinvigorating the slowdown-ravaged economy. It has, however, found time to initiate some breakthrough reforms. The new Direct Tax Code proposes complete overhaul of the direct taxes regime by phasing out large-scale exemptions but making up for the same by lowering tax rates for corporates, and hiking the slabs for individuals sharply.

On the indirect tax front, it has stuck to rolling out goods and service tax (GST) from April 1, 2010. But sticking to the deadline will be diffi-cult. While the technical work on the tax structure is underway, ob-jections from some states on implementing the GST from next finan-cial year has thrown spanner in the works.

The much-awaited reforms in the sectors of banking, insurance and pension in form of three legislations that seek to liberalise these sec-tors saw little movement, even though these crucial measures remain high on government agenda. Work, however, is underway to create an independent debt management office, a major step which will radi-cally change the way government borrowings are managed.

On the disinvestment front, the government seems to have gained momentum. Disinvestment, which had failed to find an mention in the July budget speech of the finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and with a modest target of Rs 1,120 crore, has shown significant progress. Hyrdo-power company NHPC has already raised Rs 6,000 crore through divestment and issue of fresh equity.

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