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What will Chidambaram bring to the table? All eyes on Budget 2013

Analysts say the minister will have to balance the goals of boosting growth and cutting spending on expensive social welfare programmes, with the political interest of his party, as it prepares for the electoral battles ahead.

BT Online Bureau   New Delhi     Last Updated: February 27, 2013  | 21:07 IST

Finance Minister P Chidambaram's Union Budget, which he presents in Parliament on Thursday, will be keenly watched in India and the world since it is the government's last regular one before the 2014 general elections.

TRACK THE LATEST:The Great Indian Budget story

Chidambaram, who has repeatedly said that he'll present a "responsible" budget given the state of the economy, is expected to unveil economic policies and measures to spur investment-led growth, enforce fiscal prudence and ease people's concern.

There are eight assembly elections scheduled in the coming months ahead of the parliamentary poll.

Analysts say the minister will have to balance the goals of boosting growth and cutting spending on expensive social welfare programmes, with the political interest of his party (Congress), as it prepares for the electoral battles ahead.

For the finance minister, it is also a difficult task balancing competing interests of different social groups at a time when the economy is growing at the slowest pace in a decade, current account deficit has hit a record high and fiscal deficit on a cliff, with inflation hovering above the comfort zone.

WATCH:What people want from Chidambaram's Budget

Also, infrastructure bottlenecks continue to hinder growth and investments. Added to his woes is the threat of ratings downgrade by global agencies .

Released hours ahead of the Budget, the Economic Survey for 2012-13 indicated the enormity of the job, emphasising the need for more reforms and concrete action on removing bottlenecks to investment and job creation.

"The slowdown is a wake-up call for increasing the pace of actions and reforms," said the survey, adding that India had navigated difficult times as these before, and "with good policies and strong reforms programme, it will again come through stronger."

The Survey said removing hurdles to investments, combating inflation with supply-side measures and reducing borrowing costs would help improve growth.

While foreign investors would look for more market opening measures and liberal taxation in the budget, the Indian industry is expecting the finance minister to announce steps to remove bottlenecks to attract private and foreign investment in the infrastructure sector.

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Chidambaram is expected to announce steps to maximise revenues through more efficient tax collection, fewer tax exemptions and higher proceeds from the partial privatisation of state-controlled companies.

Economists say the finance minister may expand the tax net by bringing more people under tax cover. Direct and indirect taxes are unlikely to be raised, but there is a possibility of the government may introduce surcharges on certain services.

There is also expectations that Chidambaram may announce measures to change India's archaic income tax code and replace numerous central and state taxes with a single Goods and Services Tax (GST).

With inputs from IANS

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