Organisations in the commerce and industry expressed differing opinions on the budget presented by Finance Minister K.M. Mani on Friday. The Cochin Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomed the general thrust in the budget. In a statement, president C.P. Mammen said the focus on basic infrastructure, industry, traditional sector, and allocations for road development and waste management were timely.

Traditional sectors such as fisheries, cashew, and coir were given special attention. The chamber also felt happy that the Greater Cochin Development Authority (GCDA) was allotted funds for developing Kochi.

The Confederation of Indian Industry termed the budget purposeful and meaningful. The budget would expedite growth in the primary sector, said C.J. George, Chairman, CII Kerala.

“The budget reflects the government’s focus on enhancing and modernising the agriculture sector,” he said.

Praksh B.Rao, president of the Cochin Oil Merchants Association, welcomed the status quo maintained by the government in respect of taxes on coconut oil while increasing the tax on other edible oils. The move was expected to provide relief to coconut farmers who were reeling under pressure owing to lower demand.

Bakers Association Kerala (Bake) president P.M. Sankaran said there was no clarity in the budget with regard to terms of the tax on branded food products. It was not clear as to whether those products which were being marketed under a trademark had been included in the five-per cent tax slot. Bakers had been demanding a reduction in tax from the current rate of 12.5 per cent.

John Paul, president of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TIE), said the increase in road tax and other taxes imposed on the automobile industry would have an adverse impact on the industry. The Minister had made the tax structure complicated instead of simplifying it, he said.

The Kerala Merchants’ Union, in a statement, said the budget had no proposal for resolving the problems faced by merchants. The budget failed to put forth measures to revive sick industries.

The Ernakulam Merchants Association, in its statement, said the government had failed on the economic front. The proposal on turnover tax, made applicable to the traders, was against the basics of VAT. As the tax on gold had not been reduced, the government’s move to change the tax structure would be meaningless.

The Kerala Hotel & Restaurant Association termed the budget disappointing. High cost of edible oil and other commodities had brought hotels on the brink of closure.

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