Special Correspondent

KOCHI: Jasbir Singh Chawla, president of the Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said in a statement that the budget contains several proposals for strengthening and widening various welfare schemes. The proposed measures to promote and encourage energy conservation, environment protection and ecological balancing are welcome features, he said.

The Finance Minister has given due consideration to the ‘well known' traffic bottlenecks in Kochi with the allotment of 40 new boats and projects like rapid rail corridor, seaport-airport road, Vytilla mobility hub, inland waterways and renovation of feeder canals. The Minister has positively responded to the long pending request for reduction in the rate of stamp duty. Tourism and IT sectors have also been given sops.

With regard to the quantum of allocation of funds for revamping agriculture sector and traditional industries, he wondered whether it would succeed to meet the requirements. The proposals to reduce VAT rate on eco-friendly products and to extend the amnesty scheme for general sales tax surcharge and luxury tax are steps in the right direction.

While welcoming the proposals for streamlining e-governance in the Commercial Taxes Department, sufficient care has to be taken for the simultaneous upgradation of the e-filing system as otherwise the well intentioned objects will not be served. The budget does not contain any specific proposal to attract private investment for accelerating the process of industrialisation which is inevitable for the overall economic growth of the State, he said.

The Kerala Chamber of Commerce and Industry president K. M. Abdulla said in a statement that though the Kerala budget contains welcome proposals like Kochi- Palakkad -Kozhikode industrial corridor, allotment for Vizhinjam port development, Rs.50 crores for infrastructural development of Kochi Metro and fund for Vyttila mobility terminal, there is no concrete proposal for infrastructure development.

There is no constructive proposal to boost the private sector. While the Central Government is encouraging disinvestments, the budget proposes commencement of eight public sector undertakings costing Rs.125 crore, which can't be justified, he said.

The reduction in the luxury tax will be a relief to the tourism sector. The withdrawal of surcharge and reduction in the stamp duty, reduction in the flat registration charges will help the construction sector which is reeling under recession. But the budget lacks clarity on the resources mobilisation to implement its proposals, he said.

The Cochin Chamber of Commerce & Industry president Anand Menon, in a statement, welcomed the green fund with a corpus of Rs.1,000 crore, to promote the use of green technologies for all government buildings and households. The proposals will encourage the construction of green building complexes in apartments and other buildings, he said. The introduction of energy audit and energy credit system are highly laudable, he said.

He hailed the thrust on social welfare schemes like employment guarantee and food subsidy as well as the decision to reduce luxury tax on tourism. The fact that VAT was left untouched and the decision to reduce stamp duty on registration were also hailed. The reform on lifetime tax for new motor vehicles was worrisome. He also expressed concern over inadequate measures for infrastructure development, job creation, export promotion and agriculture.