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NITI Aayog CEO hails Union Budget, call it 'transformational'

NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant on Thursday hailed the Union Budget 2018.

NITI Aayog CEO hails Union Budget, call it 'transformational'

New Delhi: NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant on Thursday hailed the Union Budget 2018. Speaking to ANI, he said the budget presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, is transformational.

"It's very transformational budget, particularly for social and agriculture sector. It's very forward-looking budget in totality. Finance Minister put resources into hands of the agriculture sector and MSMEs," he added.

Kant further said that Jaitley has focused very strongly on education and health sectors as well.

The government on Thursday announced the 'world's largest' health insurance scheme for India's 50 crore poor in its last full budget before the General Elections, focusing heavily on uplifting agriculture and rural sectors.

Jaitley presented the budget in Lok Sabha to the repeated thumping of desks by treasury members led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who later described it as a vehicle to build a 'new India'.

The FM announced massive spending on rural and urban infrastructure as also lower tax rates for small and medium enterprises.

While continuing the 10-15 percent surcharge on super- rich, he raised the health and education cess, levied on all taxable income, to 4 percent from 3 percent at present.

The centrepiece of the budget was the government's plan to provide universal healthcare through a 'National Health Protection scheme'. It provides a cover of up to Rs 5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation to 10 crore poor and vulnerable families, or about 50 crore beneficiaries, nearly half of India's population of 125 crore.

Keeping the income tax rates and slabs unchanged, Jaitley introduced a Rs 40,000 Standard Deduction for salaried employees and pensioners in lieu of the present exemption in respect of transport and medical expenses.

At present, no tax is applicable on Rs 19,200 of transport allowance and medical expenditure of up to Rs 15,000, as per PTI. This has now been subsumed into the new Standard Deduction of Rs 40,000 which may mean very little benefit in tax saving considering that health and education cess has gone up.

Jaitley, however, raised customs duties on a host of imported products - from cellphones to perfumes and toiletry, from watches to parts of automobiles, sunglasses to truck and bus tyres, footwear to diamonds and edible oils to fruit juices.

Fourteen years after it was scrapped, he brought back tax on gains made from sale of shares to offset revenue losses.

Capital gains exceeding Rs 1 lakh from shares held for more than a year will be taxed at 10 percent Currently, gains from equity investments held for more than 12 months are exempt from tax.

In July 2004, the government had abolished long-term capital gains tax on shares and replaced it with the securities transaction tax (STT) - a same-day tax credit system that continues.

In the 110 minute speech, in which he kept switching from English to Hindi, Jaitley announced plans for agriculture, rural housing, organic farming, animal husbandry and fisheries with a total allocation of Rs 14.34 lakh crore.

(With Agency inputs)