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Mini-Budget may reduce Customs duty

BS Economy Bureau in New Delhi | January 08, 2004 09:29 IST

The government on Wednesday set in motion its plan to present a mini-Budget in a day of parleys, including a late evening meeting between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Finance Minister Jaswant Singh and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman K C Pant. BJP President Venkaiah Naidu also met key economic ministers earlier in the day.

While no fresh direct tax proposals will be incorporated in the mini-Budget, likely to be presented in the last week of January, a short Finance Bill will be placed in Parliament for provisions like tax deducted at source and other sunset clauses that expire in the current fiscal.

According to government sources, there could also be some indirect tax proposals like reduction of Customs duty, compounding of offences and changes in the classification of services.

Besides, a package of measures, including pruning of interest rates for loans to the small-scale sector, sops for agriculture, and a fillip to the information technology, telecom and other infrastructure sectors, was under consideration.

The SSI ministry has pitched for a cut in interest rates on all loans to SSI units to the prevailing prime lending rates of nationalised banks and a further 2 per cent discount to tiny industries.

For executing the Rs 100,000 crore (Rs 1,000 billion) Sagar Mala project announced by the Prime Minister, the shipping ministry has proposed a two-part maritime development cess, including a Rs 50 per tonne tax on foreign-bound cargo and a Rs 20 per tonne levy on low-value coastal cargo.

A meeting of the National Democratic Alliance leaders is scheduled for Thursday to seek their opinion on early polls.

While an official communication is yet to be sent to the President for approval to present a mini-Budget for the first four months of 2004-05, no problem is expected in convening a session since the winter session has not been prorogued.

The finance ministry has already asked the administrative ministries to furnish their financial requirements for the first four months of the next fiscal.

All the ministries have expedited their expenditure proposals. However, officials said, there was no final word from the finance minister, whether it would be business-as-usual or a vote-on-account.

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