Online survey results: Expectations from Budget 2013
Days before Finance Minister P. Chidambaram unveils Indiaâ€™s budget for the next financial year, the online team at Reuters India conducted an informal survey of more than 200 people to learn what they expect from the 2013 budget.
In a poll conducted between Feb. 8 and Feb. 20, we asked 10 questions on issues ranging from Indiaâ€™s fiscal deficit to income taxes. At the time of publication, 205 respondents had shared their thoughts about Indiaâ€™s biggest business and economic event of the year.
Not everyone is confident that Chidambaram, already credited with saving the country from economic ruin once, will deliver. Forty-four percent of the respondents said that the budget will be geared toward pleasing voters, while 17 percent thought that it would contain harsh measures to help fix the nation’s economic problems. Thirty-nine percent thought that Chidambaram would find a balance.
Here are some other highlights from the survey results:
Interest paid on home loans is exempt up to 150,000 rupees ($2,770) every year, but nearly half of those polled want this limit to be raised to 300,000 rupees ($5,536). While a third said they would be happy if the limit goes up to 200,000 rupees ($3,690), 5 percent were generous enough to recommend that the exemption should be abolished.
Section 80C, which allows tax exemption on products such as insurance, tax funds and provident fund, is clearly everyoneâ€™s favourite when it comes to tax planning. Sixty-one percent of respondents want the limit to be raised to 150,000 rupees from 100,000 rupees ($1,840). But 17 percent of respondents felt more products should be made eligible for exemption under this section.
As for the basic exemption limit of 200,000 rupees, more than 86 percent of survey participants want this to be increased to 300,000 rupees or 350,000 rupees ($6,464).
The hottest debate has been whether itâ€™s time to tax very rich people. Forty-seven percent said those earning more than 10 million rupees a year (the magic â€ś1 croreâ€ť mark, or about $184,000) should be taxed at a higher rate, while 36 percent think that the higher tax bracket should begin at 20 million rupees (about $369,000).
High spending on subsidies is a drain on India’s public finances, but it also wins the support of many lower-income and poor people who depend on them to survive.
Spending on subsidies is expected to be around 2.5 percent of GDP compared with 1.9 percent estimated in the last budget. More than half of our respondents said that India should cut subsidies. Nearly 20 percent said subsidies should be increased, and another 20 percent said they should be maintained.
HEALTH: Forty percent of respondents said that the doctor-to-patient ratio (at around 1 for 2000 people in 2011) needs urgent attention, while nearly a fourth said that the government needs to double its budget from last yearâ€™s 345 billion rupees.
DEFENCE: Indiaâ€™s defence budget was pegged at 1.93 trillion rupees (2012-13). Forty-eight percent of respondents said India should focus on sectors other than defence but 33 percent said that the country needs to spend more on its military.
OTHER AREAS: More than half of those polled say that the government ignores public sanitation — better sewage systems, etc — at budget time, while 31 percent said the environment needs more attention.
These, of course, are just numbers. Keep checking back with Reuters on our India budget page online, and be sure to follow us on Twitter as we bring you more news and views on India in the run-up to budget day on Thursday next week.
(The survey was conducted via SurveyMonkey.com using multiple choice questions. The link was shared on Facebook, Twitter and with friends/colleagues. Overall, more than 200 responses were received in 12 days)