GUWAHATI, Feb 28 � The Union Budget 2011-12 speech of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee failed to evoke much excitement among a cross section of people here, with some agreeing that it was on expected lines. For others, there was nothing specific spelled out for the Northeast region in the speech, except the announcement of the Rs 8,000 crore special assistance fund.
In a post Budget speech assessment, the Federation of Industry and Commerce of North East Region (FINER) stated that the Budget speech reflected an improvement in the economic situation of the country, and could be appreciated because it did not incorporate populist measures while retaining a new regime of tax reforms.
Speaking on behalf of FINER, its chairman. RS Joshi mentioned doubling of special allocation fund to Rs 8,000 crore was a positive step, and good allocation of funds for the social sector would help a region like the Northeast.
He however regretted that the Minimum Alternative Tax would continue to be a detriment for commerce and industry of the Northeast, and reiterated that it should be completely abolished in the region that has remained backward for long.
In this context, Joshi demanded a five-year-long comprehensive plan for the economic uplift of the NE region in the line of the country�s Five-Year Plan. �As the challenges of the region cannot be fulfilled by a year-long intervention, it is better that a Five-Year Plan is in place to address the specific needs of the NE States," he remarked.
Former Chief Secretary of Assam, HN Das, said that for him the Budget was on expected lines, where net loss from direct taxes can be balanced by gains from indirect taxes. "The investment in the social sector is good, and reforms envisaged will improve the delivery systems across the country," he mentioned.
The former bureaucrat, however, expressed concern over high food inflation, and said it would be interesting to see how it would be tackled.
Madhurjya Bezbaruah of Gauhati University found elements in the Budget speech that revealed an attempt to bring in much required reforms. he also appreciated the intent to rely on IT in various government initiatives. He mentioned the absence of financial support to any major institution of Assam or rest of the Northeast, unlike the case with some other States which were assured large infusion of funds.
The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) appreciated the Union Budget 2011-12 stating that special assistance of Rs 8,000 crore to Northeast and special category States will give a "boost in meeting the development needs of the NE region".
CII also approved of the Rs 5,000 crore fund assistance to SIDBI and Rs 3,000 crore to NABARD.
Abhijit Barooah, past president of CII Assam State Council and chairman for policy advocacy said this will open up opportunities in the MSME sector, which plays a vital role in the economy of the region.
He also observed that Rs 500 crore for Women SHG Development Fund coupled with India Mincrofinance Equity Fund will usher in developments in the handloom and handicrafts, and agriculture and food processing sector.