Business Today's Manu Kaushik spoke to The Oberoi Group (India) President Kapil Chopra about the expectations he has from P Chidambaram's Budget this year. Excerpts:
Q. Given the current challenges, what, in your opinion, would make for a good budget? What measures or proposals would you like to see?
A. If India's GDP has to grow at 8 per cent year on year, we need to grow the services sector, especially travel and tourism. The hospitality sector provides employment to a large number of people. The government is not incentivising people to set up hotels.
The government has to ease the visa policy. Usually, it takes eight business days to get an Indian visa. This has to come down if India is to attract more tourists. Currently, foreign tourist arrivals in India are roughly 6 million per year. Paris alone gets 50 million tourists annually. State governments also need to support hoteliers through PPPs (public-private partnerships).
Q. Given the constraints the government faces in raising revenue, do you see a case to increase income tax rates on the rich?
A. I think there's a strong case to increase the tax base. Just over a million people pay income tax. Instead of taxing the super rich, the government has to do something about tax evasion, which is rampant.
Q. If the budget does not meet expectations, do you fear that business sentiment would once again dip?
A. In the past three months, the government has taken some bold steps. These steps have sent a strong message to industry about its intention to improve economic conditions. I don't think the government is going to take a U-turn now.
Q. Which budget, in the recent past, do you remember as having been a good one?
A. About four years ago, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram presented a budget that I think was the best in the recent times.