The Union Budget has been one of the most awaited events this year, with a slowdown in the economy ringing warning bells. Expectations ran high with conjectures galore on how the government planned to provide succour in such testing times. The Union budget held great significance given the magnitude of the prevailing economic situation as industries awaited to receive sector-specific boosters necessary to revive overall demand growth.
The real estate sector, in particular, anticipated major measures to be announced as a host of issues, ranging from liquidity crunch in the sector to lowering of GST rates, to measures that accelerate the pace of growth, which has slackened in the past few years.
The Finance Minister opened the speech with some heartening facts, noting that India is the 5th largest economy of the world. It has 60 lakh new taxpayers and it was noted that GST implementation has formalised the economy and eased monthly household savings by 4%. The budget was further described as aiming towards establishing three criteria – an aspirational India, economic development and building a caring society.
The following are the highlights of the budget:
As part of creating an aspirational India, the government announced its intention of mapping and geotagging agri-warehousing storage with support from NBABARD. While Food Corporation of India and Central Warehousing Corporation would be directed to undertake such warehouse building, PPP could also be encouraged in the sector. This bodes well for the agricultural sector as it would increase efficiency, and at the same time, open up newer avenues for investment for the private sector.
The budget aimed at developing 5 new smart cities in collaboration with states, as a PPP initiative. There has already been 100 cities selected in the country as part of the Smart Cities Mission, and inclusion of the additional cities is a welcome move.
The Finance Minister,in the last budget, had announced an additional deduction of upto Rs 1.5 lakh for interest paid on loans taken for the purchase of an affordable house. The date of loan sanction for availing this additional deduction has been proposed to be extended by one year, beyond 31st March 2020. The tax holiday provided to developers for affordable housing projects has also been extended for one more year. This signifies the government’s continued effort to provide housing for all and revive the residential property market with support from the developers.
Real estate transactions
In a significant move, the Union Budget, in a bid to reduce complexities in real estate transactions and bring relief to the sector, proposed to increase the circle rate limit of 5% to 10%. At present, while taxing income from Capital gains, business profits and other sources in respect of transactions in real estate, if the consideration value is less than circle rate by more than 5%, the difference is counted as income both in the hands of the purchaser and the seller.
Industry and commerce
The Union budget allocated a substantial Rs 27,300 Crore for promotion of industry and commerce. The FM also proposed in the budget to introduce schemes to boost domestic manufacturing and attract investment in electronics. Keeping manufacturing growth in sight, each district would be developed as an export hub, thereby giving a push to the region’s economy as well.
The government continued to emphasise on infrastructure development – a key driver for the country’s economic growth. An amount of Rs 100 lakh crore has been allocated to be invested in infrastructure, with focus on several aspects such as national logistics policy to be released soon, a single-window e-logistics would be introduced for faster processing. Accelerated development and commercialisation of 6,000 kms highways have also been targeted. Additionally, around 2,000 km of strategic highways have been proposed to be built.
In a much-awaited move, it was announced that the Bengaluru suburban rail with a project size of Rs 18,600 crore will receive 20% central funding while 60% funding will be facilitated externally. The Bengaluru-Chennai Expressway is also slated to be started soon.
Meanwhile, Delhi-Mumbai Expressway is to be completed by 2023. An allocation of INR 1.73 lakh crore has been made for transport infrastructure for and 100 additional airports will be budgeted till 2023.
The government, in its endeavour to encourage start-ups and involve the youth of the country, has proposed that start-ups with a turnover of up to Rs 100 crore could enjoy 100% deduction for 3 consecutive assessment years out of 10. Moreover, to contain attrition levels in start-ups, tax payment on ESOPs have been deferred to 5 years/when they sell them.
To boost the new economy that is driven by factors such as artificial intelligence, data storage, the FM proposed a policy to enable the private sector to develop Data Centre parks throughout the country, that would be brought out soon. The participation of the private sector in this venture harbours the immense potential to garner investments in the near future.
The Union budget also announced changes in income tax slabs, translating to reduction for the middle class. Thus, while the budget did not turn up any major announcements that would warrant much buoyancy in the industry, it continued to focus on strengthening agriculture and rural economy, affordable housing and infrastructure development. This budget, hence, is a measure aimed towards improving the agrarian economy while at the same time looking forward to supporting the new economy.
(The writer is CEO, APAC, Vestian Global Workplace Solutions)