Chamber Voice – February – 2018 Edition

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Chamber Voice

The Cochin Chamber's Monthly E-Newsletter

February 2018

President's Letter

Dear Friends,

The month of February saw the presentation of the Union Budget 2018-19 by the Hon’ble Finance Minister of India on the 1st of February followed by the Kerala State Budget on the 2nd of the month. The emphasis of both budgets has been growth and development with special emphasis on infrastructure, agriculture, education and the health sector. The Chamber has by and large welcomed the proposals put forward and hopes that the implementation will ensure that the desired results are achieved.

The Indian economy seems on track for a period of high growth.  Clocking an average growth of 7.5% in first three years it is hoped that the economy will grow to 7.2-7.4 per cent in the short run and will achieve the targeted growth of 8% in the long run.

The proposal for a Rs 5.97 lakh crore additional budgetary allocation for infrastructure is a positive step. The Chamber especially appreciates the fact that reform actions have been identified for improving the ease of doing business in the country. The Budget’s focus on Infrastructure, Agriculture, Education and Health is a good move and should, in the long run foster the growth of these sectors.

However, the tax proposals announced in the Budget are far below expectations. There have been no reductions in personal income tax rates which is disappointing. The reduction in Corporate tax is minimal. We however welcome the introduction of the standard deduction of Rs 40,000  in lieu of transport and medical allowance and the incentives announced for senior citizens.

The reduction of import duty on raw cashews to 2.5% from 5% is bound to be a boost for the Cashew Industry in Kerala.

The Kerala State Budget presented by Finance Minister Dr T.M. Thomas Isaac has tried to do justice to all sectors in the State. The Agricultural Sector stands most benefitted.

We welcome the proposal to set up of the Coir Marketing Company with the help of the private sector. The allotment of bank loans for cashew procurement will be a boost for the Cashew industry. However, it is disappointing to note that plantations and spices have found no mention in the Budget.

We appreciate the Government’s commitment to build and improve the roads and bridges in the State by allocating Rs 1459 crores for the same this year.  This will also benefit the tourism sector which has already received an allocation of Rs. 80 crores.

The allocation for various parks under KSIDC and KINFRA are also appreciated.

Various allocations to support the Education and Healthcare sectors are also appreciable.

The Cochin Chamber is of the firm view that the time has come for proactive action to be taken to ensure that all the pending infrastructure projects relating to the city are fast tracked and implemented at the earliest.

At a time when Cochin city is witnessing huge traffic jams on a daily basis due to the various infrastructure works being carried out around the city, the insufficient roads and the increasing number of vehicles, it is disheartening to see that there seems to be no urgency on the part of the authorities concerned to expedite some of the infrastructure projects that have been in the pipeline for several years now. The Cochin Chamber is deeply concerned about the way things are progressing and urges the Government to initiate immediate steps to remedy the situation by giving the go ahead for all pending infrastructure projects without further delay.

The Chamber has aired its views, in detail, on this issue. The same is carried elsewhere in this newsletter.

The CEO Forum of the Chamber organized its monthly Breakfast Meeting on Friday the 2nd of February. The Speakers who addressed the session on the Implications of the Union Budget 2018-19 were senior experts from PricewaterhouseCoopers, India.

On Saturday the 3rd of February the Chamber organized its Annual Post Budget talk in association with the Institute of Cost Accountants of India – Kochi Chapter. Mr. Homi P Ranina one of India’s foremost Tax Consultants and an Eminent Lawyer was the Speaker on the occasion.

Later this month, the Chamber is organizing two programmes for the benefit of trade and industry. The first, on Friday the 23rd of February, is a Workshop on Selling Skills which is specifically focused on training/upskilling Marketing and Sales personnel. This Workshop is being organized as part of the Cochin Chamber’s efforts to develop the skills of tomorrow’s Managers. Mr. Mark Antony Sequeira, Corporate Trainer from Chennai will be the Trainer for the day.

On the 24th we will be organizing a Seminar on The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 & Companies Amendment Bill, 2017” in association with the PricewaterhouseCoopers, India. The Sessions will be addressed by Ms. Shweta Dubey, Director – Regulatory Service, PwC India and Ms. Deepa Bhatia Chirayath, Leader | Entity Governance & Compliance Tax & Regulatory.

I trust that our members and others will make use of these opportunities in the best possible manner.

Regards

Shaji Varghese

Recent Events

CEO Forum Breakfast Meeting - Union Budget - 2018-19

The Fourth Breakfast Meeting of the CEO FORUM 2017-18 was held on Friday, the 2nd of February 2018 at the Taj Gateway, Ernakulam. Speakers for the session were Mr. Aditya Narwekar, Ms. Neetu Singh and Ms. Nisha Menon – PwC

The speakers addressed the CEOs on the topic “Union Budget 2018-19”

Annual Post Budget Analysis 2018-19

The Cochin Chamber of Commerce & Industry in association with the Institute of Cost Accountants of India, Cochin Chapter organised an Annual Post Budget Analysis on Saturday the 3rd of February 2018.

The Speaker at the session was Mr. Homi P. Ranina, who is one of India’s foremost Tax Consultants and an eminent Lawyer.

Mr. Shaji Varghese, President of the Cochin Chamber of Commerce & Industry, delivered the Welcome Address and introduced the Speaker. Mrs. Pushpy B. Muricken, Chairperson of ICAI, Cochin Chapter, delivered the Vote of Thanks.

In his lecture, Mr. Ranina spoke on the intricacies of this year’s Union Budget. He explained the importance of paying tax and supporting the Government. Mr. Ranina also added that, Tax is the main source of income for a country, and unless the citizens pay their taxes properly, the Government will not be in a position to carry out the developmental workd envisaged. Mr. Ranina touched up on the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code and the issues concerning NPAs. He said that, through digitalisation the Income Tax Department of India now has huge data regarding the incomes and expenditures of each citizen and they are keeping a close eye on those who do not disclose their income. Mr. Ranina explained how demonitisation had impacted the economy positively and how much money was brought back to the banks because of that. He also spoke about the changes in the economy with the introduction of GST. Mr. Ranina said that the Indian Economy is on the right track to growth and the true benefits of the changes happening now will be seen in the years to come.

The lecture was followed by an interactive session at which Mr. Ranina clarified the issues raised by the participants.

Trivia

Quotes

“Failure is an opportunity to begin again, more intelligently”

Henry Ford

Ship for World Youth

The President of the Cochin Chamber, Mr. Shaji Varghese, Vice President of the Cochin Chamber, Mr. V. Venugopal and Immediate Past President of the Cochin Chamber, Mr. C.S. Kartha were invited for a Function on-board the “Ship for World Youth Leaders” on the 11th of February, 2018 . The Chamber representatives met with Mr. Komagata Ken – Ichi, Administrator, Cabinet Office, Government of Japan and Mr. Seiji Baba, Counsel General of Japan. The President and the Vice-President of the Chamber presented the book “Journey Through Time” (Chamber History) as a Memento to both of them.

Taxation updates from PricewaterhouseCoopers

Union Budget 2018-19

Rationalization of GST rates, clarifications on rates, taxability and other changes.

The Finance Minister presented the Union Budget for the year 2018 amidst the usual fanfare.  A few industry pundits speculated that the Union Budget would mirror some of the recent USA tax reforms, others predicted it to bring in tax sops for the masses considering the world’s largest democracy goes to the polls in the coming year. The Finance Minister, eschewing all these temptations, focused the budget towards consolidating the gains and furthering the aspirations of a New India. With no surprise, the thrust of the Budget was on the agricultural sector, rural economy, healthcare, MSMEs and infrastructure. Additional measures for strengthening the growth and successful operation of Alternative Investment Funds has been promised – though it fell short on providing parity on taxation with listed equity. The Budget emphasized the use of technology for various sectors, laying down the theme of moving from ‘‘black board’’ to ‘‘digital board’’ in the education sector and blockchain technology to usher in a wider spread of the digital economy, amongst others. The mandatory e-audits by tax authorities is a significant step towards digitization of Government processes. These reforms are in tandem with the Prime Minister’s message at the World Economic Forum in Davos to transform the Indian administration – minimizing Government and maximizing governance.

 

As anticipated, long term capital gains tax @10% has been imposed on listed securities, units of equity oriented fund and units of business trust. The tax rate for companies having turnover of less than INR 2.5 bn has been proposed to be reduced from 30% to 25%. However, a marginal increase in the tax rate is proposed due to replacement of existing 3% of education cess by health and education cess @ 4%.  On the indirect taxes side, no changes have been proposed on the GST front while few amendments are proposed with respect to customs law. With this budget aimed at inclusive economic development, the message is loud and clear – it is time for a forward march with consistency. Please click here to read the full PwC analysis. PwC Union Budget Booklet 2018

Indirect Tax

Rationalization of GST rates, clarifications on rates, taxability and other changes

Pursuant to its 25th meeting held on 18 January 2018, the recommendations made by the GST Council granting relief on the GST rates applicable on goods and services in many sectors etc. have since been notified by the Government. Some of the more important changes are as summarized hereunder:

Sector-wise and other Changes:

  • Infrastructure/Construction: 
  • Supply of land or undivided share of land by way of lease or sub–lease where such supply is a part of specified composite supply of construction of flats etc. to be exempted. Availability of exemption is, however, subject to the lease/sub-lease amount not exceeding one-third of total amount charged for such composite supply. Suitable amendments to be made in the provision relating to valuation of construction service so as to ensure that buyers pay the same effective rate of GST on property built on leasehold and freehold land.
  • The liability to pay GST to be deferred in case of –
  1. Transfer of Development Rights (“TDR”) against consideration in the form of construction service; and
  2. Supply of construction service against consideration in the form of TDR.

To the time when the possession or right in the property is transferred to the land owner by entering into a conveyance deed or similar instrument (e.g. allotment letter). However, no deferment in respect of cash component.

  • Supply Chain and Logistics:
  • Exemption in respect to transportation of goods(available till 30th Sept’18):
  • Service by way of transportation of goods from customs station of clearance in India to a place outside India by air; and
  • Service by way of transportation of goods from customs station of clearance in India to a place outside India by sea.
  • Leasing or rental service, with or without operator, of goods, attracts same GST as that of underlying goods being rented/leased.
  • Time charter services of vessels for transport of goods to be taxed at GST rate of 5%, (i.e. at the same rate as applicable to voyage charter or bare boat charter), without the benefit of Input tax credit. However, input tax credit of ships, vessels (including bulk carriers and tankers) can be taken.
  • Services by way of fumigation in a warehouse of agricultural produce to be exempted.
  • Input tax credit of input services allowed in the same line of business at the GST rate of 5% in case of tour operator service to be allowed.

Education:

  • Exemption to services by educational institution by way of conduct of entrance examination against consideration in the form of entrance fee.
  • Exemption to subscription of online educational journals/ periodicals by educational institutions who provide degree recognized by any law university
  • Exemption to services provided by way of renting of motor vehicle provided to a person providing services of transportation of students, faculty and staff to an educational institution providing services by way of pre-school education and education up to higher secondary or equivalent.

 

  • Others:
    • Exemption limit in respect of services provided by Resident Welfare Association (unincorporated or non–profit entity) to its members against their individual monthly contribution to be raised from INR 5,000 to INR 7,500.
    • Exclusion of the following from the value of exempt supplies (while computing any instances of Input credit reversal):

    – Value of deposits, loans or advances on which interest or discount is earned. This will, however, not apply to a banking company and a financial institution including a non–banking financial company engaged in providing services by way of extending deposits, loans or advances.                                                                                   – Value of supply of services by way of transportation of goods by a vessel from customs station of clearance in India to a place outside India.

  • Transfer of credits from normal GST registration in a state to Input Service Distributor (ISD) registration in the same state allowed, basis an invoice, credit or debit note. Such document to inter alia contain GST ID of the service provider as well as the invoice number, of the common input service sought to be transferred.

Amendment to the Authorised Economic Operator Programme

In 2016 as a part of the trade facilitation measure, Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) had notified[1] a revised Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) programme. The revised programme merged erstwhile Accredited Client programme and AEO programme. Now, with the objective of aligning the AEO programme with the changes notified in the mid-term review of Foreign Trade Policy 2015-20 and maximize the outreach, CBEC has notified certain amendments in the AEO programme guidelines. Some of the key modifications include eligibility of status holders to seek advance authorization on self-declaration and ratification (in specified circumstances), relaxation in the norms for obtaining solvency certificate, increase in validity of AEO status for Tier 1 (from 2 years to 3 years) and nomination of Client Relationship Manager (CRM) for all AEO entities (which was earlier extended only to Tier 2 and Tier 3)

PwC Comments: With approximately 400 plus AEO status holders since 2016, it is one of the key initiative vis-à-vis trade facilitation. The decentralization of the AEO application process & procedural relaxation including apparent extension of CRM to all AEO status holders will hopefully see further expansion in the status holders with the trade looking for supply chain efficiency.

Direct Tax

Tribunal applies percentage completion method for recognizing revenue on advances received by developers.

In a recent decision, the Jaipur Income-tax Appellate Tribunal (‘Tribunal’) held that in case of a taxpayer engaged in the development of township projects, advance received from the buyers on unregistered sale agreements should be recognized as income in the year in which the advance is received. Further, for computing the amount of income to be recognized as income the Tribunal held that the taxpayer should apply the percentage completion method (‘PCM’) only on the amount of advance realized by the taxpayer during the year, and not on the amount of total sale consideration.

In cases where the sale agreements were registered, the Tribunal rejected the tax officer’s (‘TO’) stand that the entire sale consideration should be recognized as income in the year in which the sale agreement is registered, and held that the revenue should be recognized by applying PCM on the amount of total sale consideration.

PwC Comments: The Tribunal decision has laid down that with respect to advances received pertaining to the unregistered sale deeds, tax would be levied on the amount realized post application of PCM on the amount of such advances realized. Further, in the case of real estate developers, where a sale deed for transfer of a plot is registered, the whole agreed sale consideration cannot be brought to tax in the year in which such registration takes place. The specified activities which were closely linked to the sale of plot of land (which were construction of roads, provision of electricity etc. in this case) were yet to be performed by the taxpayer. The taxpayer will be obliged to perform the specified development activities even after the sale deeds were registered in favor of buyers. The application of the PCM is therefore necessary for determination of revenue that can be brought to tax for real estate developers.

Transfer Pricing

Tribunal deletes entire TP adjustment of payment of management cross charge and accepts foreign AE as tested party

In a recent judgement, the Pune Bench of the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal (Tribunal) deleted the entire transfer pricing (TP) adjustment made for the payment of management cross charge to its associated enterprises (AEs). The Tribunal ruled that the taxpayer’s benchmarking of the transaction by selecting foreign AEs as the tested party and foreign companies’ data as comparable under the Transactional Net Margin Method (TNMM) was appropriate, based on the facts of the case. Further, it was also held that under TP law, the Transfer Pricing Officer (TPO) is neither empowered to decide the taxpayer’s needs nor is he empowered to analyze the benefits arising to the taxpayer while determining the arm’s length price (ALP) of a transaction.

PwC Comments: This judgement highlights the importance of maintenance of contemporaneous TP documentation, especially for transactions such as payment of management cross charges for provision of services that are intangible in nature. This judgement is a welcome decision in TP law towards the selection of a foreign AE as the tested party and foreign companies as comparable data for determination of the arm’s length price.

International Tax

Capital gains on indirect transfer of shares by non-resident not taxable in India since it did not meet the criteria of ‘substantial value’ as per the Act; Tax treaty benefit available.

In a recent ruling by the Authority for Advance Rulings (AAR), the transfer of shares in a German company by German residents was held not taxable in India since it did not meet the criteria of “substantial value,” as provided under the Income-tax Act, 1961 (the Act). In addition, the said transaction was held not taxable in India under the India-Germany Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (tax treaty), considering the language employed therein.

PwC Comments: This ruling recites the condition of “substantial value” for the purpose of taxation pursuant to the indirect transfer of shares. In addition, the ruling reaffirms the positions laid down in the case of Sanofi that the benefit of DTAA has to be given effect while taxing the indirect transfer of shares in India.

Regulatory

SEBI amends circular on Scheme of Arrangement by listed companies.

The Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) recently issued circular[1] amending the existing circular [2]providing framework for the Scheme.

Arrangement involving listed companies. Some of the more important changes are:

  • Extension of exemption from compliance with framework in existing Circular (applicable to merger of Wholly Owned Subsidiary (WOS) with the parent company) for demerger of division by WOS to its parent company, subject to filing the Scheme with stock exchanges for disclosure purposes.
  • Pledge of locked-in shares with any scheduled commercial bank or public financial institution as collateral security for loans granted by the respective banks, allowed for raising funds. However, such pledge permitted only if such pledging is a condition for sanctioning the loan.
  • Post Scheme shareholding pattern to be on fully diluted basis – In case of any Scheme between a listed company and an unlisted company, the shareholding of pre-scheme public shareholders and the Qualified Institutional Buyers of the unlisted company shall not be less than 25% in the post scheme shareholding pattern of the merged entity, computed on a fully diluted basis. Thus the impact of convertible instruments held by the promoters as well as non-promoter shareholders will be built into the computation.
  • Extension of condition of lock-in of pre-scheme share capital of unlisted issuer (i.e. 20% of promoters for three years and balance for one year) to scheme of merger of listed company into unlisted company. It seems that existing circular missed out to capture merger situation, which is now covered.
  • The circular, now allows transfer, of shares locked-in under the existing circular (as amended), “inter-se” among the promoters in accordance with the conditions specified under regulation 40 of the ICDR Regulations.
  • Both the listed entity and/ or unlisted entity (transferee) are to ensure that steps for listing of specified securities are completed and the trading in securities commences within 60 days of the date of receipt of the order of the High Court/NCLT.
  • Relief from submission of documents (such as copy of High Court/ NCLT order, result of voting by shareholders etc.) to the stock exchanges, post approval from the High Court/ NCLT.

PwC Comment: The proposed amendments seem to be in line with the objective of ease of doing business and to prevent misuse of the Scheme to bypass regulatory provisions. The “inter-se” transfer between promoters, of the locked-in shares and ease in fund raising by allowing pledge of locked-in shares will be providing much needed flexibility to the promoters.

 

References:
Circular No. 3/2018-Cus dated 17 January 2018

CBEC Circular No. 33/2016 dated 22 July 2016

ITA No. 105/JP/2017

ITA Nos. 2182/Pun/2013 & 211/Pun/2015

AAR No. 1232 of 2012

Sanofi Pasteur Holding SA v. Department of Revenue [2013] 30 taxmann.com 222 (Andhra Pradesh)

CFD/ DIL3/ CIR/ 2018/ 2 dated 3 January, 2018

CFD/ DIL3/ CIR/2017/ 21 dated 10 March, 2017

Upcoming Events

One Day Workshop on - Selling Skills

The Cochin Chamber of Commerce & Industry is organising a Workshop on “Selling Skills” on Friday, 23rd February 2018 at “Hotel Abad Plaza, Ernakulam.”

The trainer for this session will be Mr. Mark Antony Sequeira, Master Trainer, Executive Coach and HRD Facilitator.

Speaker profile:

Mark Antony Sequeira (MBA, MA, PGDHRM, PGDCA, BEC (Cambridge), M.Phil) is a Master Trainer, Executive Coach and HRD Facilitator by profession and the CEO of Maestro Human Resources Pvt. Ltd., a premier professional management training & development organization founded in 2002 with offices across South India. He is the Co-Founder & Director of Maestro which is an acronym for Manpower Appraisal Executive Staff Training Resource Organization. With more than 2500 MDPs to his credit, Mark Antony has coached thousands of professionals in numerous corporate houses across diverse sectors across India and Abroad. An alumni of Loyola College (Autonomous) Chennai, Mark Antony has mentored personnel at all categories from Presidents, CEOs and Directors to Vice Presidents, GMs, Zonal / Regional Heads to entry level professionals in his illustrious decade and a half career as an HRD expert. He has also held offices of the Treasurer and Joint Secretary of Calicut Management Association from 2004 – 2006. He is associated with various projects in Organizational Development and Change Management, Strategic Planning & Operations, Leadership & Team Building, Sales Management Strategies, Outbound Training, Top Management Workshops, etc. He is the Chief Consultant to a host of top companies in India and abroad. Mark is also a resource person to various renowned professional management and engineering institutions across India.

Seminar on Companies Amendment Bill, 2017 & The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016

The Cochin Chamber of Commerce & Industry in association with the PricewaterhouseCoopers, India is organising a Seminar on the “Companies Amendment Bill, 2017 & The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016” on Saturday, 24th February 2018 at “Hotel Abad Plaza, Ernakulam.”   The Programme will commence at 9 a.m. with the Registration and end at 1:30 p.m. with Lunch.

The Sessions will be addressed by Ms. Shweta Dubey, Director – Regulatory Service, PwC India and Ms. Deepa Bhatia Chirayath, Leader | Entity Governance & Compliance Tax & Regulatory.

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Press Releases

COCHIN CHAMBER REACTS TO THE UNION BUDGET 2018-19

The Indian economy seems on track for a period of high growth.  Clocking an average growth of 7.5% in first three years it is hoped that the economy will grow to 7.2-7.4 per cent in the short run and will achieve the targeted growth of 8% in the long run.

The proposal for a Rs 5.97 lakh crore additional budgetary allocation for infrastructure is a positive step. We especially appreciate the fact that 372 basic reform actions have been identified for improving ease of doing business. We hope that the Government will follow through quickly on this so as to actually foster the ease of doing business.

The Budget’s focus on Infrastructure, Agriculture, Education and Health is a good move and should, in the long run foster the growth of these sectors.

The tax proposals announced in the Budget are far below expectations. There have been no reductions in personal income tax rates which is disappointing. The reduction in Corporate tax announced is far from satisfactory as it will benefit only MSMEs with turnover of Rs 250 crore.

We however welcome the introduction of the standard deduction of Rs 40,000  in lieu of transport and medical allowance and the incentives announced for senior citizens.

Where Kerala is concerned we applaud the reduction of import duty on raw cashews to 2.5% from 5%. This is bound to be a boost for the Cashew Industry in Kerala. However, we are disappointed that the other sectors such as rubber, coir, spices do not find specific mention on these lines.

As expected the Government has in its Budget for 2018-19 reiterated its commitment to improving the lot of the rural economy by announcing schemes to promote the welfare of farmers, higher income for farmers and also focussing on farm and non-farm employment.

The Cochin Chamber welcomes the renewed focus on the agricultural sector and its realisation of the potential that this sector holds in the growth of the economy. We hope that “Operation Green” with its Rs. 500 crore allocation will help realise the agriculture potential of the country. Initiatives such as the mechanism to ensure that farmers get better price on their products, focus on agri logistics and the proposal to set up 42 mega food parks for processed foods are welcome.

We in Kerala especially welcome the announcement that the exports of agri goods will be liberalised.

The Healthcare sector proposals announced are ambitious. The Government has launched the world’s largest health care programme with a focus on comprehensive social security plan. This is a timely move given the way health care costs have been escalating in recent times.

The announcements for the Education sector with a massive outlay of one lakh crore Rupees over the next four years to revitalise educational infrastructure is most welcome. The allocation of Rs 1 Lakh crore in the next four years to boost Research and Development is something that this country desperately needs.

Credit support through capital and interest subsidy to Micro Small and Medium Enterprises and measure to ease their NPA burden is a good move.

Announcements such as the allocation to Digital India of Rs 373 crore and the Government’s desire to use of Block Chain Technology for payments are welcome.

The proposals for the transport sector, increased infrastructure allocation and the increased focus on safety are good as also the proposal to expand the country’s airport capacity by 5 times to handle 1 billion passengers annually.

While we welcome the announcement that the Government will contribute 12 per cent of wages for new employees for all sectors for the next 3 years and that women’s contribution to retirement savings is to be reduced to 8% from 12% in first 3 years, we feel that this could reduce the savings component of these young women in the long run.

We are also quite surprised that there has been no mention in the Budget about the Governments much touted Skill Development Programmes.

COCHIN CHAMBER REACTS TO THE KERALA STATE BUDGET 2018-19

The Kerala State Budget presented by Finance Minister Dr T.M. Thomas Isaac has tried to cover to do justice to all sectors in the State. The Agricultural Sector stands most benefitted with an allocation of more than Rs. 500 crores.

We welcome the proposal to set up of the Coir Marketing Company with the help of the private sector. The allotment of bank loans for cashew procurement will be a boost for the Cashew industry. However, it is disappointing to note that plantations and spices have found no mention in the Budget.

We appreciate the Government’s commitment to build and improve the roads and bridges in the state by allocating Rs 1459 crores for the same this year.  This will also benefit the tourism sector which has already received an allocation of Rs. 80 crores.

The allocation of Rs. 350 crores for various parks under KSIDC and KINFRA are also appreciated. We hope this is judiciously utilised to develop units like the Petrochemical park and other manufacturing units essential to the state.

The Government has also considered the nurturing of Innovation and Start up schemes in the state by allotting around Rs. 100 Crore for the Startup Mission, Kerala Innovation Extension Project and the Development and Innovation Strategic Council of Kerala (K-DISC).

Rs 12 crore allocated for Skill Development Programmes should have been increased considering the need to upskill the existing working class and the younger generation who will be entering the workforce soon.

The allocation of Rs. 2000 crore for the Coastal Area Development considering the Okhi Cyclone that devastated our state in the previous month is indeed a positive step. The rehabilitation of families on the coastal area and development of satellite-based warning systems are the need of the hour.

Considering the menace of Waste Management in towns and rural areas alike, Rs 5 crore allocated for Waste Management Centre at Chandiroor seems insufficient. There has been no mention about any allocation towards the Brahmapuram Plant.

We hope that the measures taken to revive the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation will be well utilised and that the KSRTC can be converted into a profitable Corporation with accountability.

Various allocations to support the Education and Healthcare sectors to the tune of Rs. 1000 Crores are also appreciable. Smart classes and better-quality classrooms are indeed a necessity for the future generation. The Government has also budgeted funds to offer comprehensive health insurance to everyone. This is a welcome announcement.

NEED TO EXPEDITE INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS IN COCHIN

The Cochin Chamber of Commerce & Industry is of the firm view that the time has come for proactive action to be taken to ensure that all the pending infrastructure projects relating to the city are fast tracked and implemented at the earliest.

At a time when Cochin city is witnessing huge traffic jams on a daily basis due to the various infrastructure works being carried out around the city, the insufficient roads and the increasing number of vehicles, it is disheartening to see that there seems to be no urgency on the part of the authorities concerned to expedite some of the infrastructure projects that have been in the pipeline for several years now. The Cochin Chamber is deeply concerned about the way things are progressing and urges the Government to initiate immediate steps to remedy the situation by giving the go ahead for all pending infrastructure projects without further delay.

The Chamber is concerned to understand that the Railway Overbridge at Vathuruthy is still awaiting clearance. We have in the past made representations in this regard to ensure that the traffic movement to the West Kochi area would be streamlined. The daily congestion on the Atlantis-Panampilly Nagar road is a nightmare for motorists opting to use that road to move towards Kadavanthra and beyond. The narrow road combined with the frequent closing of the railway crossing leaves people stranded several times a day. Similarly, the project to widen the road between Thammanam & Pullepadi which was approved long ago remains unfinished and has been pending for several years now. The work needs to be completed on a war footing.

It is high time that concerted efforts are made by all concerned to tackle these three bottlenecks.

We request the State Government and the local authorities to work together to ensure that these projects are implemented at the earliest.

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Cochin Chamber of Commerce & Industry

P.B. No. 503, Bristow Road, Willingdon Island, Cochin - 682003
Tel: 0484-2668349, 2668650
E-mail: cochinchamber@bsnl.in, secretary@cochinchamber.org
Web: www.cochinchamber.org