Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made a series of announcements today as she attempted to allay concerns over the state of the economy. These include the roll back of the higher tax on foreign investors and the release of funds to recapitalise public sector banks.
"We are releasing Rs 70,000 crore upfront as additional lending and liquidity. Banks decided to pass on rate cuts through MCLR reduction," she said. This is to make Rs 5 lakh crore available for credit expansion.
The enhanced surcharge on foreign portfolio investors levied in the budget was withdrawn, said Ms Sitharaman. The surcharge was levied on long and short term capital gains made from transfer of equity shares. "The pre-Budget position is restored," she said.
The surcharge affected individuals with taxable income of more than Rs 2 crore. Foreign portfolio investors have pulled out over $1 billion in August from the Indian markets, news agency Reuters reported.
Income Tax department summons will now be issued through a centralised system, the minister said. "This is one way in which harassment angle can be addressed in favour of the assessee. All old notices issued till now will have to be cleared in 1.5 months".
Ms Sitharaman also said that all pending Goods and Services Tax refunds due to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises will be paid within 30 days and "in future, every refund will be paid within 60 days".
The Finance Minister also announced the decriminalisation of Corporate Social Responsibility violations, and said that such matters will now be treated as civil offences. "Our moves have benefited MSMEs and homebuyers. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) violations will not be treated as a criminal offence but as a civil offence," she said.
Ms Sitharaman pointed out that the Indian economy was still the fastest growing in the world, and drew comparisons with other countries. "India's economic growth is more than that of the US and China," she said.
"I want to give you a picture of what is happening globally. Global growth is 3.2 per cent, likely to be revised downwards. Many organisations say global demand is very weak," Ms Sitharaman said during a press conference.
The Finance Minister further said that reforms are the government's top priority, and measures to revive economic growth will be taken.
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