Friday, 29 February 2008

Budget ignores NRIs, feel Indian expats in UAE

Budget ignores NRIs, feel Indian expats in UAE
Aroonim Bhuyan, Indo-Asian News Service
Dubai, February 29, 2008
The Union Budget for 2008-09 Finance Minister P Chidambaram presented on Friday is populist ahead of elections but has left overseas Indians out of focus, according to expatriate Indians in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

"The budget is a populist one as can be expected before elections," Abbas Ali Mirza, president of the Indian Business and Professional Council (IBPC) of Dubai, said on Friday.

The IBPC had organized a post-budget interactive session here, which was attended by top Indian entrepreneurs, businessmen and professionals.

Terming the budget populist, IBPC vice-chairman and Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust chairman and managing director K Shamshudheen said the debt waiver for small and marginal farmers was a bad step.

"The Rs 60,000-crore debt waiver to small and marginal farmers is a disaster. The government should have instead aimed at increasing farm productivity. Now agriculture will be all about taking loans," Shamshudheen told IANS.

"Also, NRIs were nowhere in the finance minister's mind when he prepared the budget," he said.

"I think it is high time organizations like IBPC approach the finance ministry at least three months in advance to draw his attention to NRI issues."

Abbas Ali Mirza said: "The debt waiver is meant for small and marginal farmers only and not for everybody. You need to include everybody in the growth process."

Speaking to IANS, Bharatbhai Shah of Al Mustaneer Trading drew attention to the 12.5 percent service tax on air tickets bought outside India.

"We NRIs are not asking for anything. But at least they can give us some facilities. Why should I pay service tax for air tickets I buy here in Dubai for my parents in India? What service am I getting?" Shah asked.

"We have been writing to the Indian government about this for long. They waived it for one year and then now again it is back," he added.

Around 1.4 million expatriate Indians live in the UAE and 5.5 million across the Gulf.

Nikai group of companies chairman Paras Shahdadpuri was of the view this year's budget has not laid enough stress to infrastructure.

"The debt relief to farmers is a welcome step. But India's infrastructure needs to be better. Not enough attention is being given to sea ports and airports," he said.

"While China has drawn $71 billion worth of foreign direct investment, India's share is $12 billion. And the main reason for this is India's underdeveloped infrastructure," he said.

"And of course, NRIs are nowhere in the scheme of things of the finance minister," he added.

Suresh Kumar of the Emirates Bank described the budget as disappointing.

"It is not a bold budget. It is disappointing and short-term oriented," he said.

IBPC governing body member Rubu Celly, however, felt that the budget was good for women and children.

"It is a good budget, especially for women and children. The national plan for elders is very good step," she said.

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