Finance Minister P Chidambaram has already started work on implementing Budget 2013-14 announcements, even before the proposals are approved by Parliament. Today, Chidambaram called a meeting of finance ministry officials to prepare a road map to implement the Budget proposals.
Officials said this was the first time a finance minister had started acting on his Budget speech so swiftly. Traditionally, finance ministers have called meetings to review Budget announcements at the end of the first half of a financial year (September). And, these are usually preceded by review meetings at the level of secretaries in April.
It is learnt the finance minister has asked officials to talk to their counterparts from other ministries on issues not directly under the finance ministry's domain. These include setting up a regulator for roads. "Timelines for various Budget announcements have been discussed. In fact, follow-ups would be carried out for items not even related to the finance ministry," said an official, requesting anonymity.
Key road maps being laid down include those for setting up a women's bank by November (with six branches in six regions), coming out with safe harbour rules by April, bringing tax notifications by the end of this month and disinvestment of three public sector companies this month and one in April.
Work to table the Direct Taxes Code (DTC) Bill in the current session of Parliament is on in full swing. The insurance and pension Bills would also be pushed for passage in this session of Parliament. The finance minister aims to conclude negotiations on the Goods and Services Tax by May-June.
This week, the Central Board of Excise & Customs met to consider the suggestions that hadn't been addressed in the Budget. According to the finance ministry's assessment, as of January 15, action had been taken on only 57 of the 81 measures proposed in Budget 2012-13. For 2013-14, Chidambaram wants to take action on all Budget announcements in a planned manner.
Last week, when the Budget provision on tax residency certificate spooked the markets, the finance ministry immediately came out with a clarification to sooth the nerves of investors.
Chidambaram would soon visit Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad and the National Capital Region of Delhi to ask companies to boost capital expenditure. He would also review the capital expenditure of public sector companies this financial year.
To woo foreign investors, he would visit the US, Japan, Canada and countries in west Asia. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) would convene a meeting of foreign institutional investors to address their concerns.
Sebi, along with the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority and the Reserve Bank of India, would also take follow-up actions on the Budget announcements.
The finance ministry is also considering rationalising withholding tax for foreign investors in various instruments and doing away with sub-limits on investments. It is also considering whether these can be made fungible.