Friday, February 07, 2014

Exporters looking for extension of interest subsidy in interim budget 
New Delhi, 7 Feb, 2014: Exporters are expecting an expansion of the government's interest subsidy programme to sectors such as pharmaceuticals, gems and jewellery, and engineering goods in this month's vote on account, industry executives said. 

The commerce department has an unspent amount of Rs.300-400 crore for the financial year through March, which it can use to give an immediate fiscal incentive, they said. 

The prospects of such a step have increased with commerce minister Anand Sharma last month telling his officials to find ways to boost outbound shipments in the last quarter to meet the $325-billion export target for this fiscal year. 

Exports, which grew 5.94% between April and December, will have to expand nearly three times faster during January-March period to meet the $325-billion target. Exports had grown at a double-digit pace for four months through October, as a pickup in the global economy boosted demand for Indian merchandise. But growth has slowed down again, to as low as 3.5% in December. 

With elections around the corner, exporters aren't expecting much from the vote on account, or interim budget. "It will be difficult to incorporate marketing assistance in the interim budget. However, we feel that interest subsidy can be easily extended to more sectors as the commerce department already has Rs300-400 crore surplus to accommodate these sectors," said Ajay Sahai, director-general of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations. 

The government had, in August, increased interest subvention to 3% from 2% for micro, small and medium enterprises and 235 tariff lines in the engineering sector. At the time, the minister had said that the department would look at further widening the programme to include more tariff lines. 

The government could announce an expansion in the subsidy programme outside the vote on account too. Last year, export sops were announced in April, and not in the budget. The gems and jewellery sector has played a major role in pulling overall export growth lower. The sector posted a more than 11% fall in December exports at Rs15,735 crore, hurt by government and central bank steps to curb gold imports to help reduce current account deficit. 

The Gems & Jewellery Export Promotion Council has asked the finance minister to relax the 80:20 rule. Under this rule, importers have to ensure that 20% of the gold they imported is compulsorily shipped out after adding value, such as by making jewellery with the metal. "Apart from the extension of the 3% interest subvention scheme, we are hopeful that the finance minister will relax the 80:20 scheme," said Vipul Shah, chairman of the council. 

Courtesy: The Economic Times