Budget 2003: India Inc steps up last-minute lobbying

PTI | ByGirish Chadha (HindustanTimes.com), New Delhi
Feb 18, 2003 02:59 PM IST

India Inc has stepped up lobbying for holding pre-Budget meetings with North Block mandarins.

With just a month left for Finance Minister Jaswant Singh to unveil Budget 2003-04, India Inc has stepped up lobbying for holding last-minute pre-Budget meetings with North Block mandarins.

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Industry associations are pulling all strings to get appointments with Revenue Secretary CS Rao, chairmen of CBEC and CBDT and other senior Finance Ministry officials, with the Finance Minister doing away with the customary pre-budget meetings this fiscal.

"With Finance Ministry officials not giving any appointment to our organisation, we had to request our chief - a leading industrialist and a member of a industry development council - to step in and get us an appointment", said the secretary of one such Delhi-headquartered industry association.

While apex chambers such as CII, FICCI, Assocham and some leading associations including those for cigarettes, steel, capital goods and tyres managed to present pre-budget memoranda to Rao and other senior officials, several others have been left merely pushing their written wish-lists without any hearings.

Industry associations have approached the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) too for presenting their pre-Budget wish-lists. While a FICCI delegation has already met BJP President M Venkaiah Naidu, a CII delegation is expected to meet Naidu next week.

Obviously, the 50-odd smaller organisations, that have not found an audience in North Block, are unhappy with the way that the pre-Budget interaction with industry has been conducted this year.

"The government is being selective in terms of giving a hearing to industry associations. Only those organisations, which represent an industry that is a major tax contributor, are being given an audience with Finance Ministry officials", lamented a senior functionary of a commodity organisation. 
These smaller organisations are also peeved at the treatment meted out to them by their own umbrella industry chambers like CII, FICCI and Assocham.

"The apex chambers get just enough time to take a macro-view of the economy and industry and its problems while making pre-budget presentations. Such interactions do not serve the purpose of small organisations, whose problems do not get highlighted during such interactions", said the functionary.

Industry officials say in the absence of any interaction with them, the Finance Ministry officials are depriving themselves of point of views that are important to ascertain the ground realities before the Budget is structured and announced.

"The written presentations that the finance minister had invited from industry and trade are learnt to have made their way to the tax research unit (TRU), without the Finance Minister himself having got to view them", said an official.

However, a senior CII official counters the argument. "All apex industry associations have sub-committees for various sectors, which take up their cause and highlight the problems throughout the year. It does not have to be a year-end exercise", he said.

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