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Budget 2021 Live Blog: All eyes on Sitharaman as India hopes for coronavirus bailout
Photo Credit: Reuters

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present the budget today as prime minister Narendra Modi's government tries to bring the pandemic-hit economy back on track with "game changer" plans to boost growth.

Healthcare spending is expected to be a huge part of these plans with the government looking to bump up expenditure in the sector as a percentage of gross domestic product in the wake of the pandemic.

Infrastructure spending could also hog limelight as the government looks to create jobs and reinvigorate an economy projected to contract 7.7% in the current financial year.

To be sure, amid all this talk and hope of big expenditure, the government faces limited fiscal headroom which may force it to make tough choices in the budget.

To fund the expenditure, the government could target big bucks from privatisation of a range of firms as well as the sale of minority stakes in large companies such as Life Insurance Corp.

Also expected of the budget are a new infrastructure development bank, a "bad bank" that would soak up toxic assets of banks, and a recapitalisation of lenders.

All these expectations come in the wake of the central bank’s projections of a sharp rise in bad loans in the banking system due to the pandemic.

Will the budget meet all the expectations? And how does the finance minister aim to deliver a game-changing budget given the limited fiscal headroom?

To find out, follow the live blog of the proceedings on budget day.

Budget 2021 Liveblog

12:50 PM: FM finishes speech.

12:45 PM: In order to incentivise startups, FM proposes to extend the eligibility of claiming tax holidays by one more year, till March 31, 2022. To incentivise funding for startups, she proposes to extend the capital gains exemption for investment in startups by one more year till March 31, 2022.

12:44 PM: Domestic electronic manufacturing has grown rapidly. For greater domestic electronic value-addition, we are withdrawing a few exemptions on parts of charger and sub-parts of mobiles. Some parts of mobiles will move from nil rate to a rate of 2.5%.

12:43 PM: More than 400 old exemptions to be reviewed this year and new Customs duty exemptions will be announced in October. Any new Customs duty exemptions will have validity up to March 31, following two years from the date of issue.

12:42 PM: FM says govt hopes to reduce compliance burden on small charitable trusts, running educational institutes and hospitals. So far there is a blanket exemption on such entities whose annual receipt does not exceed Rs 1 cr. Now FM proposes to increase this to Rs 5 cr.

12:41 PM: In order to ease compliance for taxpayer, details of salary income, tax payments, TDS, etc. will come pre-filled in income-tax returns. To further ease filing of returns, details of capital gains from listed securities, dividend income, and interest from banks and post offices will also be now pre-filled.

12:41 PM: FM proposes to include tax holiday for capital gains for aircraft leasing cos; tax exemptions for aircraft lease rentals paid to foreign lessors; tax incentives to relocate the foreign fund in the IFSC (GIFT); and to allow tax exemptions to the investment divisions of foreign banks located in the IFSC.

12:40 PM: Budget proposes to cut Customs duty on copper scrap to 2.5%; to raise Customs duty on some auto parts ; to raise Customs duty on cotton to 10%

12:39 PM: To keep up the supply of affordable houses, FM proposes that projects can avail a tax holiday of one more year till March 31 2022. FM also proposes to allow tax exemption for notified affordable rental housing projects.

12:38 PM: Affordable and rental housing: In July 2019 budget, FM says provided additional deduction of interest, amounting to 1.5 lakh for loan taken to purchase an affordable house. FM now proposes to extend the eligibility of this condition by one more year to March 31, 2022.

12:36 PM: In order to ensure that a lot of large funds invest in India, FM proposes to relax conditions relating to prohibition on private funding, restriction on commercial activities, and direct investment -- in infrastructure. 

12:35 PM: To encourage investments in Indian infrastructure, notified infrastructure debt funds will be allowed to raise funds by issuing of zero coupon bonds.

12:34 PM: FM proposes deduction of tax for foreign portfolio investors on dividend income at lower treaty rate

12:31 PM: National Faceless Income Tax Appellate Tribunal Centre proposed for video conference-based appeals.

12:29 PM: Reduction in time for I-T proceedings proposed. Assessment can be reopened in up to six years or in serious fraud cases up to 10 years. The time limit for re-opening assessments reduced to three years from six. If there is evidence of concealment of income of Rs 50 lakh or more in a year, it can be re-opened for up to 10 years with approval.

12:28 PM: Direct tax announcement to ease compliance and reduce litigation. Exemption from filing income tax returns for senior citizens (75 years and above) who only have pension and interest income. 

12:27 PM: In 2020, returns filers rose to 6.28 crore from 3.31 crore in 2014.

12:25 PM: Funds for UT of J&K and Ladakh to be provided by the Centre. A sum of Rs 1.18 lakh cr as revenue deficit grant to be given to 17 states in 2021-22 as against Rs 73,240 cr to 14 states in 2020-21.

12:25 PM: To ensure that the economy is given the required push, our BE estimate for expenditure in FY22 is Rs 34.83 lakh crore. This includes Rs 5.54 crore as capex, up 34.5% from a year ago. Fiscal deficit is estimated to be 6.8% of GDP in FY22.

12:24 PM: Amendment to be introduced to Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act.

12:23 PM: Gross borrowing from the mkt for the next year would be Rs 12 lakh crore. We plan to continue with our path of fiscal consolidation, and intend to reach the fiscal deficit below 4.5% of the GDP by FY26. 

12:21 PM: FM proposes to provide Rs 1,000 crore for the welfare of tea workers especially women and their children in Assam and West Bengal. 

12:20 PM: Outlay for this is Rs 3,768 crore for coming fiscal

12:19 PM: First digital census in the history of India

12:18 PM: Newly formed PSU, New Space India Ltd, will execute PSLV-PS51 launch carrying Amazonia satellite from Brazil along with smaller Indian satellites.

12:17 PM: Min government, max governance: rationalise functioning of tribunals; introduce national commission for allied healthcare professional bill in parliament; national nursing and midwifery commission bill will be introduced

12:16 PM: Four Indian astronauts are being trained in Russia. Unmanned launch slated for Dec. 

12:15 PM: To give further boost to digital transactions, Rs 1,500 cr earmarked for proposed scheme for providing financial incentive to promote digital payments.

12:14 PM: Financial incentive to promote digital payments in order boost this space. 

12:13 PM: National Research Foundation (NRF) outlay of Rs 50,000 crore over 5 years. Overall research ecosystem will be strengthened.

12:12 PM: FM says will introduce legislation for an umbrella body for higher education for standard setting, accreditation, regulation and funding.

12:11 PM: Skilling -- Govt proposes to revamp the apprentice training scheme. Outlay of Rs 3,000 crore. 

12:10 PM: More than 15,000 schools will be qualitatively strengthened to include all aspects of National Education Policy. 

12:09 PM: 100 new Sainik schools to be set up in partnership with NGOs and other schools.  

12:07 PM: Margin money requirement for Standup India benefitting women, SC and ST categories reduced from 25% to 15%.

12:06 PM: Women to be allowed to work in all categories including night-time shifts. Compliance burden on employers to be reduced with single registration and licensing and online returns.

12:06 PM: A portal for gig workers to be launched 

12:02 PM: Enhancing the allocation to Rural Infrastructure Development Fund from Rs 30,000 cr to Rs 40,000 cr. Doubled the Rs 5,000 cr rural irrigation fund with NABARD.

11:59 AM: FM doesn’t mention farm bills but gives a comparison of how much the MSP has increased since 2014. MSP for cotton farmers: from Rs 90 crore payment in FY14 to Rs 25,974 crore in FY21. More than 40 times increase from 2014 for pulses. 

11.56 AM: FM announces third pillar: inclusive development for aspirational India. Will cover agriculture and allied sectors.

FM says total amount paid to farmers from 2013-14 (wheat) is Rs 33,874 crore. In 2019-20, Rs 62, 800 crore. In 2020-21, Rs 75,060 crore paid to farmers for wheat. 
43.36 lakh farmers in wheat in FY21 compared with 35.56 lakh farmers in FY20

11:56 AM: Government says committed to development of multi-state cooperatives. Separate administrative structures to be set up for them.

11.55 AM: Number of centrally sponsored schemes to be rationalised. 

11.51 AM: Disinvestment and strategic sale of BPCL, Air India, Shipping Corporation of India, Container Corporation of India, Bharat Earth Movers, and Pawan Hans will be completed in 2022. Other than IDBI Bank, the govt proposes to take up the privatisation of two public sector banks and one general insurance company in 2021-22. 

Govt will come out with the IPO of LIC also in 2022 (was announced last year). 

11:50 AM: As a further measure which directly benefits startups and innovators, FM says she proposes to incentivise the incorporation of One Person Companies (OPCs) by allowing OPCs to grow without any restrictions on paid-up capital and turnover, allowing their conversion into any other type of company at any time, reducing the residency limit for an Indian citizen to set up an OPC from 182 days to 120 days and also allow Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) to incorporate OPCs in India.

11:49 AM: Budget decriminalises Limited liability Partners Act; proposes to revise definition under the Companies Act for small firms

11:48 AM: FM for bank recapitalisation worth Rs 20,000 cr for public sector banks in FY22

11:45 AM: FM proposes to create institutional framework to purchase debt securities; SEBI to be notified as regulator for gold exchanges

11:44 AM: World class fintech hub at the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT) International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) will be supported by govt: FM

11:37 AM : FM announces prepaid smart metering; says Hydrogen Energy Mission will be launch in 2022; seven port projects to be offered in PPP mode; Ujvala plan to cover 1 cr more beneficiaries

11:37 AM: Distribution companies for power generations are monopolies, says FM. A framework will be put in place to give consumers alternatives to choose from more than one distribution company.

11:42 AM: Gas pipeline project will be taken up in Jammu and Kashmir: FM

11:38 AM: Modern and major ports will be moving from managing their own operations, to a modern and private partner driven management. For the purpose, 7 projects worth more than 2,000 crores will be offered in FY22: FM

11:36 AM: Additional 116 km of metro and RRCS is under construction across 27 cities. Two new technologies -- Metro Lite and Metro Neo -- for Tier 2 cities and peripheral areas of Tier 1 cities at a lowered cost.

11:36 AM: 137% rise in health allocation; voluntary vehicle scrapping policy to drive manufacturing; monetisation pipeline to fund infra projects

11:35 AM: Expansion of metro rail network and city bus services. New scheme launched at cost of Rs 18,000 crore for augmentation of public bus transport services. This will include private sector players as part of PPP model to acquire, maintain and deploy over 20,000 buses.

11:35 AM : Record sum of Rs 1.1 lakh crore for railways of which Rs 1.07 lakh crore will be earmarked for capital infrastructure.

11:30 AM: Sops for poll-bound states: Rs 34 k cr for highways in Assam; 25k cr for highways in Bengal

11:20 AM: Seven textile parks to be launched; over Rs 2 trillion to states for capex; monetisation platform to fund infra projects

11:15 AM: Health first pillar of the budget; funds of Rs 35,000 crore for vaccines; 15 health emergency centres

11:00 AM: Five Mini budgets 

The budget speech opened with slogans from the opposition on “Jai Jawan”  but FM sets the context of the budget at the time of the pandemic. 

Sitharaman said the ‘Pradhan Mantri Garib Yojna’ and the   Atma Nirbhar Bharat Package I, II, III  were “five mini budgets”. 

The financial outlay for Atma NIrbhar Bharat Package was Rs 27.1 lakh crore -- amounting to 13% of the GDP. 

10.45 AM: Investor, startup demands

Indian investors want parity in long term capital gains tax (LTCG) on sale of shares in private companies. Currently, domestic investors are taxed at 20% while foreign investors need to pay only 10%. Fund managers also want the government to ease restrictions so more pension and insurance money can flow into domestic AIFs.  

The Indian Angel Network said that angel tax is still a concern for startups. 

Indian fund managers, led by Indian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (IVCA), are pushing for further guidelines on GIFT City. The industry body wants the GIFT City in India to encourage fund managers with on-shoring benefits so that foreign capital coming into India does not get trapped.
 
10:30 AM: High expectations 

The Economic Survey last week said India could expect 11% growth in 2021-22 on the back of an expected V-shaped recovery.  

The annual survey advised the government to spend more for growth to reach pre-Covid growth levels.  

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman also raised expectations when she addressed a Confederation of Industry Conference last month and commented on the historic nature of the budget, which will be presented to MPs in a virtual format because of the pandemic. 

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