Hold tax rates but widen net, says Economic Survey

DF

The widely-debated tax on the country's super rich may not come through in the Union Budget to be presented on Thursday, going by the suggestions offered in the finance ministry's Economic Survey 2012-13.

A day ahead of the Budget, the Survey tabled in Parliament by Finance Minister P Chidambaram also concludes that the worst of the downturn could be over, with the economy returning to a 6 per cent-plus rate of growth. But the document, written by Chief Economic Adviser to the Finance ministry, Raghuram Rajan, and his team of economists, warns that a business-as-usual scenario with few reforms will keep "growth slower than it could be and inequality higher than it ought to be".

To avoid this, the Survey has listed several short and long term policy prescriptions. On direct taxes, it argues for bringing more tax-payers under the net to achieve a higher tax-GDP ratio "rather than increasing marginal tax rates significantly — higher and higher tax rates impinge more and more on incentives to undertake taxable activity, while encouraging tax evasion".

The former chief economist of IMF has also written an introduction to the Survey, which encapsulates his take on the economy and the agenda ahead. "The slowdown is a wake-up call for increasing the pace of actions and reforms (and) the way out lies in shifting national spending from consumption to investment, removing the bottlenecks to investment, growth, and job creation," says Rajan.

Projecting a large growth range of 6.1-6.7 per cent in the next fiscal year. Rajan has said he wants to move away from estimating a precise rate of growth, but acknowledged that the current band was large since the economy is at an inflexion point.

"We are at a turning point in the economy, so it is very difficult to estimate where we stand on growth. I am trying to get away from the point forecast to a band of estimates. But the broader question is whether the government is writing policies for growth," he said at a press conference later in the day.

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