Mr Harsh C Mariwala, Chairman & Managing Director, Marico Industries

The Union Budget 2005-06 is comprehensive and balanced. It focuses on the Common Minimum Programme, through equitable emphasis on social infrastructure - education, agriculture and health - with no major negatives for the corporate sector.

The continued stress on "outcomes" and not only "outlays" is refreshingly in line with the fiscal responsibility theme.

Progressive measures include reduction of corporate income tax, streamlining of MAT, confirmation of VAT implementation, Customs duty reduction and streamlining of personal taxation. The declaration of intent to move towards a unified national VAT through GST is a good step, although excise duties could have been further reduced.

The increased social spending, almost State-directed development expenditure, and the focus on rural infrastructure/health will help generate demand from new quarters and hopefully bring more consumers to branded products and services.

The Union Budget is thus by and large positive except for what we do not know as yet - the "fine print factor", which could be larger this time because of the Finance Minister's repeated statements that he did not want to burden the Budget Speech with details.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 2, 2005)
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