Vibha Padalkar, Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer, HDFC Life on Budget 2013 announcements:
Q. What is the big takeaway for you from the budget?
A. It reflects a tight rope walk by the finance minister, given that he has to bring back investor confidence as well as spur investment and growth as this might be the last full Budget prior to the general elections. The Budget is a responsible and pragmatic one with the announcement of several initiatives that should spur growth. A number of measures for financial and capital markets are steps in the right direction. On the other hand, there are no big scale subsidies. We need belt tightening and wise, long term investments so that we get back on to the growth track and are an attractive investment destination.
Q. What do you think is the outlook for the economy?
A. This Budget has several measures to encourage foreign investment and focuses on several initiatives that should spur growth, such as 3,000 km of road projects as well as fast- tracking of stalled projects in financial year 13/14. These are definitely encouraging signs. However, surcharge has been increased from five to 10 per cent, which will result in a higher tax bill. On the whole though, it is a responsible and pragmatic budget.
Q. What is the outlook for your sector in particular?
A. With respect to the life insurance sector, certain measures such as using the KYC (know your customer) verification done by banks, extending group insurance to homogeneous groups such as self help groups, opening of branches in Tier II and III towns without IRDA (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority) approval and appealing to the government to pass the long pending Insurance Amendment Bill are measures in the right direction.
Q. What is the one thing that stood out for you from the budget?
A. A high level of focus on financial and capital markets with a slew of measures such as the increased investment limit in RGESS (Rajiv Gandhi Equity Saving Scheme), the launch of inflation indexed bonds, the announcement of India's first women's only bank with a capital sanction of Rs 1000 crore, allowing banks to act as insurance brokers, etc, are a few of the points that stood out.