In a panel discussion on the Union Budget, organised by Moneylife Foundation at Mumbai, prominent speakers felt that this year’s Budget is a precursor of many changes that would take place from April 2012 onwards
The Union Budget 2011 has some good features, but on overall analysis it appears to have done more lip service than anything specific to tighten the country's loose governance systems, improve economic competitiveness, or hold out hope of effectively tapping its anticipated demographic dividend. This was the overall sentiment expressed by speakers at a Budget Discussion hosted by Moneylife Foundation in Mumbai on Tuesday.
Ameet Patel, chartered accountant and tax partner at SKP Group said, "The Union Budget 2011, is dry and has very less tax proposals as the government is trying to pave the way for the Direct Tax Code (DTC), which will determine taxation issues for the next 40-50 years, and the Goods and Services Tax (GST)."
He pointed out that the thrust of the Budget was undoubtedly on the infrastructure sector, which accounts for 48.5% of the planned expenditure. On the growth front, the finance minister (FM) expects the economy to grow at 9% in the next fiscal and he did not dare to completely roll back the fiscal stimulus announced in 2008. The rates of service tax and excise duty have remained intact, Mr Patel said. "Another reason not to change the tax rates was the comfortable position of fiscal deficit, mainly due to revenue collections from auctioning of 3G spectrum."
Speaking on the impact of the Budget on the stock markets, leading investment expert and prominent market analyst, Gul Tekchandani, said, "I think, for the Nifty the bottom would be 5,000 and by the year-end it may go up to 6,000 levels." Mr Tekchandani also shared his experiences on the global markets, the persistent inflation threat across the world and its possible effect on Indian markets.
The FM has allowed foreign investors to invest in SEBI-registered mutual funds after fulfilling Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements. However, Debashis Basu, editor and publisher, Moneylife, cited various studies by many institutions over the years, and said, "Although foreign investment is a good thing, many investors are home biased when it comes to investment." For example, he said, people tend to invest only in their home country, rather than invest in a country that they know little about where they may earn more.
The panellists analysed, debated several aspects of the Budget, and presented a detailed analysis of the implications of the proposals for the common man and corporates. There was an interesting and enlightening exchange of opinions between the panellists and the participants.
Earlier, Sucheta Dalal, managing editor, Moneylife, and founder trustee of Moneylife Foundation, introduced the panellists.
Nifty may target 5700 and Sensex may hit 18,800
The domestic market opened with decent gains a day after the Union Budget, as investors cheered the proposals for hiking foreign institutional investment (FII) limit and reduction in surcharge on corporate tax. Reacting to these proposals, buying by institutional investors was on the rise today. Besides, positive economic indicators and firm Asian markets also supported the rally. The key indices ended with gains of over 3.5%.
Stock markets in India will remain closed on Wednesday on account of a local holiday.
The Sensex and Nifty put up an incredible show today. The Sensex opened with a gap up of 159 points at 17,982 and the Nifty opened at 5,382, a gap up of 49 points. The market never looked back and kept rising throughout the day. Eventually, the Sensex ended up 623 points (3.5%) at 18,447 and the Nifty up 189 points (3.54%) points at 5,522. Today's gain is the biggest since 28 May 2009. The gain from the three-day rally (starting 25 February 2011) has completely covered up the loss of three days of fall from 22 to 24 February 2011.
In the past three days, both the Sensex and Nifty made higher highs and higher lows, finally leading to a massive burst today. This shows that the market rally is a strong one. The advance-decline ratio on the National Stock Exchange was a handsome 1390:330.
The market breadth on the key indices was splendid, as all 30 stocks on the Sensex and the 50-share Nifty ended in positive terrain. In the broader markets, the BSE Mid-cap index gained 3.2%, while the BSE Small-cap index advanced 2.38%.
The top sectoral gainers were BSE Auto (up 5.64%), BSE Bankex (up 4.35%), BSE Realty (up 4.20%), BSE Capital Goods (up 4.19%) and BSE Metal (up 4.13%).
Mahindra & Mahindra (up 8.36%), Maruti Suzuki (up 7.14%), Jaiprakash Associates (up 7.10%), NTPC (up 6.32%) and Hindalco Industries (up 5.78%) were the top Sensex gainers. There were no red ticks on the index today.
The seasonally adjusted HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI)-a headline index to measure the overall health of the manufacturing sector-stood at 57.9 for February, up from 56.8 in the previous month. The latest reading indicates a marked expansion of the Indian manufacturing sector, which is the strongest in three months and above the long-run series average (56.1).
Markets in Asia ended with decent gains, boosted by Chinese factory output in February and a fall in crude prices. The Purchasing Managers' Index fell to 52.2 from 52.9 in January, marking the third monthly decline, the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said today. The gauge of input prices climbed to 70.1, the highest level since November.
Meanwhile, crude oil for April delivery declined 0.9% to settle at $96.97 a barrel in New York on Monday, the biggest daily drop since 11th February, after Saudi Arabia offered to make up for supplies lost because of the unrest in Libya.
The Shanghai Composite gained 0.51%, the Hang Seng rose 0.25%, the Jakarta Composite surged 1.22%, the KLSE Composite advanced 0.74%, the Nikkei 225 rose 1.22%, the Straits Times jumped 1.90% and the Taiwan Weighted settled 1.49% higher. The South Korean stock market was closed today for a local holiday.
Back home, foreign institutional investors were net sellers of stocks worth Rs39.86 crore on Monday. On the other hand, domestic investors were net buyers of equities worth Rs317.38 crore.
Reacting to the finance minister's move to keep excise duty unchanged and the proposal to offer special incentives for companies manufacturing hybrid vehicles, the BSE Auto index (up 5.64%) was the top gainer today. Besides, broader measures like increased focus on rural and infrastructure spending would support long-term growth of the sector. Ashok Leyland jumped 11.46%, Bharat Forge jumped 8.74%, Mahindra & Mahindra was up 8.36%, Maruti Suzuki gained 7.14% and Tata Motors was up 5.42%.
The government will give Rs140 to the banks for every 'no-frills' account opened by them as part of its initiative to expand the reach of banking services in the country, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee proposed in the Budget yesterday. In total, the government will grant Rs50 crore to banks in the next fiscal 2011-12 for this exercise.
IndusInd Bank surged 6.26%, Yes Bank advanced 6.01%, ICICI Bank gained 5.66%, Bank of India rose 5.59% and Axis Bank was up 5.25%.
The government has proposed a full tax rebate on affordable housing projects under a notified scheme, while also raising the ceiling of 1% interest subsidy on home loans up to Rs15 lakh from the current Rs10 lakh. Among realty stocks DB Realty gained 6.57%, Sunteck Realty advanced 5.47%, HDIL rose 5.32%, Sobha Developers gained 5.06% and Indiabulls Real Estate added 4.86%.
In a situation where few officials of the Indian Railways are trying to prove ACD systems vulnerable in order to prepare ground for buying more expensive foreign technology, whether the indigenously developed device would see the light of the day remains a question.
In the Railway Budget, Union railway minister Mamata Banerjee announced that the improved version of the Anti-Collision Device (ACD) will be extended to eight railway zones of the country to improve passengers' safety, after the completion of successful trials.
But the inventor of the ACD, Rajaram Bojji (better known as B Rajaram), the former managing director of Konkan Railway, feels that there is a strong lobby of bureaucrats who are hand-in-glove with multinational companies in order to get hold of the ACD technology, which is an exclusive patented product of the Railways.
Moneylife has earlier reported (Is the anti-collision device system being derailed? http://www.moneylife.in/article/9845.html) that the Indian Railways was testing the anti-collision system with only two of the original four devices planned for each train, ostensibly to save money. We had said that this could compromise its performance, preparing the ground for the purchase of expensive foreign technology.
Mr Bojji, in a recent email to the railway minister has stated, "Powerful lobbies are at work to derail the ACD, which is a threat to the multinational companies of the world. They will now use our own bureaucratic processing systems to sabotage us. The bureaucratic tangle that they will create, I have envisaged and put it down so that we can effectively blunt them."
ACDs are microprocessor-based, communication-capable, GPS (global positioning system)-enabled compact devices with special world-recognised intelligent self-deducing capability, requiring no human inputs, but which draw strength from networking with each other. They are mounted on locomotives, stations, the last wagon in the train, level crossing gates and any other vulnerable locations, to prevent collision.
These ACDs are the joint product of Konkan Railway and Kernex Microsystems, where the former controls the sales, by giving exclusive manufacturing rights to the latter.
Kernex has parted with its Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) of manufacture to the Konkan Railway. Thus, it is a duty of both the entities to protect the technology from being poached.
In his blog entry on 27th February, Mr Rajaram wrote, "Supporting a dedicated facility to monitor health of all the ACDs riding on locomotives, the constant vigilance remotely, and provide patches and upgrades to meet any bugs are all the requirements which only one dedicated partner can provide. But I do have some lurking doubts if the lobby in (the) Railway Board will raise the bogey of multiple suppliers etc., as it is usual for the routine non-technology intensive products as per procurement rules under stores code. That is another way to sabotage the technology."
Mr Rajaram also feels that the guidelines of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) can be an impediment to the success of a public-private partnership (PPP).
"The problem with the guidelines of the CVC is that a PSU cannot deal with only a single vendor without open bids etc., (this) can drive the organisation to the jitters. What if someone accuses the officers probing a scam and starts hounding them? Why not do nothing and take home one's pension-this could be the natural reaction." Mr Rajaram says in his blog, "The entire model needs to be properly understood in perspective in the interest of the nation."
However, according to B Rajaram, informing the CVC well in advance will help only in case any controversy arises. "The best approach is to send all these papers to the CVC as well as the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) now itself, so that you can clear the air. Let them scrutinise and be briefed on any clarifications, instead of getting frightened of their probable future adverse appreciation of the case."
With the constant lobbying by the babus in the Railways, it is difficult to say when the ACDs-which ensure safety of the passengers-will see the light of day.