Left sets Budget priorities for UPA govt

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New Delhi, Feb 7: Observing that the ''aam admi'' felt cheated by the UPA government in all its previous budgets, the Left Parties today asked the Centre to increase the gross budgetary support for the Central Plan, constitute a farmers' debt relief commission and reintroduce the long-term capital gains tax in the General Budget for 2008-2009.

Addressing a press conference shortly after their joint meeting here, the leaders of the four Left Parties said they had submitted their budget proposals to the government, asking it, among other things, to increase the gross budgetary support by at least Rs 60,000 crore to fulfil its commitments in the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) with regard to health, education and poverty alleviation and higher allocation for the implementation of the Sachar committee report. CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat and his CPI counterpart A B Bardhan also accused the government of having given up the practice of consulting the Left Parties on the budget.

''What to talk of the Left Parties, the Finance Minister (Mr P Chidambaram) has not even consulted the UPA allies on the budget...he has only consulted the Congress leadership,'' Mr Bardhan added.

Stating that their proposals on the budget had been clearly spelt out, Mr Karat said: ''Our proposals include the setting up of a farmers' debt relief commission, writing off the debt of small and marginal farmers across the country and bringing down the interest rate on farm loans to simple interest rate of 4 per cent, as recommended by the National Commission of Farmers.'' Referring to the 13-point expenditure priorities, which included raising of food subsidy, more allocation for education and health and social security scheme for workers in the unorganised, Mr Karat said the move was necessary as the agrarian crisis, unemployment and price rise had badly hit the common man.

The Left leaders said the National Rural Guarantee Act must be extended to all districts of the country and its proper implementation should be ensured. The Budget should also make the beginning by allocating sources for the extention of the scheme to urban areas. ''The government should also consider writing off the debt of private money lenders as done in Kerala,'' Mr Karat said.

On implementation of the Sachar Committee recommendation, Mr Bardhan said allocations for focused Literacy campaigns and building primary schools in all villages and Minority Concentration Districts (MCD) besides building a girl's residential school in each Minority Concentration Block (MCB) and modernisations of the 'madrassas' were necessary.

About Budgetary Resources and Taxation, he said the increase of Rs 60,00 crore in the Gross Budgetary Support (GBS) for the Central Plan was needed to implement the commitments made in the Commom Minimum Programme (CMP).

The leaders said the Left Parties had always opposed the ''unjustified and anti-development provision of the FRBM Act.'' Under no circumstances, should the FRBM deficit be allowed to constrain the plan expenditure in the Budget.

They also made a strong case for doing away with what they called the exorbitant tax concessions given in the Special Economic Zones (SEZs). This should be done without further delay and other coorporate tax concessions be curbed, the leaders added.

On reintroduction of the long-term capital gains tax and increase in the rate of the short-term capital gains tax, they said the steps would correct the anomaly which had led to inflow of speculations in the stock market, causing high volatility.

''The rate of Securities Transactions Taxations should also be increased. These measures must be implemented in the Budget not only because of the additional resources they would raise but also to ensure financial stability,'' the leaders added.


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