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Smoking, eating out, air travel to be costlier


New Delhi: Smoking and consumption of other tobacco items will be more expensive, while an increase in service tax rate would make costlier a whole lot of other activities including air travel, eating out and paying bills.

Continuing the trend set by his many predecessors, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today came down heavily on smokers and tobacco consumers with a steep increase in excise rate in tax proposals in Budget 2015-16.

While increase in service tax rate to 14 per cent would make a whole lot of things more expensive, he spared the common man from price hikes on many commonly used day-to-day items by keeping the duties unchanged.

Govt earmarks Rs 75 crore for electric vehicles in 2015-16

New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today earmarked Rs 75 crore for faster adoption and manufacturing of electric vehicles in 2015-16, a step which electric vehicles makers termed as a good beginning.

“Government is also launching a scheme for faster adoption and manufacturing of electric vehicles (FAME) with an initial outlay of Rs 75 crore,” he said while presenting the Budget for 2015-16 in the Lok Sabha.

Further, the concessional excise duty of 6 per cent on specified goods for use in manufacture of electrically operated vehicles and hybrid vehicles, presently available up to this March, is being extended up to another year.

Reacting to the development, Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV), Director-Corporate Affairs, Sohinder Gill termed the allocation towards promoting electric vehicles and supporting charging infrastructure and R&D investments as a welcome step.

“Its like a life saver for the ailing companies who had invested into the environmentally friendly vehicles but were bleeding heavily because of the lack of government support,” he added.

In addition to supporting the industry National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) will create a significant positive impact on the health index of country by promoting zero pollution electric vehicles and reducing the dependence on the fossil fuel.

Elaborating further, he said that the biggest beneficiary of the (NEMMP) will be companies manufacturing electric two wheelers and small electric cars, who have managed to survive through the difficult years and have been still active in the market.

“Although we are awaiting details, it is expected that around Rs 1,000 cr will be allocated for a period of two years, a large part of which will go directly into the hands of the customers in term of reduction of the prices of electric vehicles by around 20 per cent and in installing charging stations in many cities,” he added.

The government has an ambitious target of putting 5 million electric and hybrid vehicles per year on the road by 2020 under the NEMMP.

“A clear roadmap on GST, increased investment in infrastructure, agriculture investment and reforms, increased alloaction to electric vehicles and a focus on skilled development will also support auto demand,” said PwC India, auto expert and partner, Abdul Majeed.

The previous UPA government had launched the NEMMP 2020 in 2013. The targets were envisaged to result in substantial lowering of vehicular emissions and decrease in carbon dioxide emissions by 1.3 per cent to 1.5 per cent in 2020 as compared to a status quo scenario.

It was estimated that the government would need to provide support to the tune of Rs 13,000-14,000 crore over a period of 5-6 years to facilitate R&D and put in place charging infrastructure.

Budget gives lion’s share to infra to spur economic growth

New Delhi: Asserting that India’s infrastructure is a mismatch with its growth ambitions, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today proposed a sizeable Rs 70,000 crore increase in investment in the sector besides a slew of steps to spur its growth.

Presenting his maiden full-fledged Budget in Parliament, Jaitley said, “It is no secret that the major slippage in the last decade has been on the infrastructure front. Our infrastructure does not match our growth ambitions. There is a pressing need to increase public investment.”

Jaitley also stressed on the need to revitalise the public private partnership (PPP) mode of infrastructure development.

Listing infrastructure among five major challenges he has to reckon with, Jaitley said it is a challenge for government to increase investment in the sector and with private investment in infrastructure via the PPP model still weak, public investment needs to step in, to catalyse investment.

He said, “Investment in infrastructure will go up by Rs 70,000 crore in the year 2015-16, over the year 2014-15 from the Centre’s funds and resources of CPSEs.”

Jaitley said the government has increased outlays on both the roads and the gross budgetary support to the Railways, by Rs 14,031 crore, and Rs 10,050 crore, respectively.

“The CAPEX of the public sector units is expected to be Rs 3,17,889 crore, an increase of approximately Rs 80,844 crore over RE 2014-15,” he said.

Enunciating steps to boost the sector, the government intends to establish a National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF), and find monies to ensure an annual flow of Rs 20,000 crore to it.

This, he said, will enable the Trust to raise debt, and in turn, invest as equity, in infrastructure finance companies such as the IRFC and NHB and infrastructure finance companies in turn can then leverage this extra equity, many fold.

He said permitting tax free infrastructure bonds for projects in rail, road and irrigation sectors is also on the anvil.

On public private partnership, he said, “The PPP mode of infrastructure development has to be revisited, and revitalised. The major issue involved is re-balancing of risk.”

“In infrastructure projects, the sovereign will have to bear a major part of the risk without, of course, absorbing it entirely,” he added.

To augment power sector, he said, India will set up 5 more ultra mega power projects, entailing investments of around Rs 1 lakh crore.

Pitching for corporatisation of state-run ports in the country, Jaitley said the government will encourage them to become companies.

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