Good tid­ings for cargo

In a wel­come move which took al­most all in­vestors and in­dus­tri­al­ists by sur­prise, the govern­ment took a pro-in­dus­try and more im­por­tantly, a pro-lo­gis­tics stance, in the Bud­get this year. A lot of is­sues which had been side­lined were tabled, and a host of

Cargo Talk - - Front Page - HRITVICK SEN

The Bud­get 2014-15 turned out to be more than a pleas­ant sur­prise for the lo­gis­tics com­mu­nity in In­dia. For sure, ev­ery­thing pro­posed will take time to have the de­sired ef­fect, but the main thrust of the govern­ment has been on build­ing in­fra­struc­ture, do­ing away with red-tapeism, al­lo­cat­ing funds for con­nec­tiv­ity, and in­cen­tives for FDI.

Union Fi­nance Min­is­ter Arun Jait­ley, de­spite warn­ings of a ‘strict’ Bud­get, veered more to­wards boost­ing in­dus­try and in­fra­struc­ture than in­creas­ing taxes dur­ing an al­ready­tough eco­nomic pe­riod. Per­haps the big­gest game-changer for the in­dus­try was tabling of the is­sue of Goods and Ser­vice Tax (GST).

A long-dal­lied topic which has caused mul­ti­ple tax­a­tion for those ply­ing across state lines, the over­all aim is to sim­plify the tax struc­ture to a sin­gle slab. The pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions had mulled the is­sue with­out much head-way, but the present govern­ment has set a dead­line for the end of the year. And this will be not just to have a res­o­lu­tion on the sub­ject, but to have it im­ple­mented! Now, that is some­thing to wait for.

The Fi­nance Min­is­ter has also as­sured to pro­vide nec­es­sary tax changes to in­tro­duce real es­tate in­vest­ment trusts and in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment trusts.

Then there are a slew of funds al­lot­ted for in­fra­struc­ture devel­op­ment, which is the next most-heart­en­ing thing for the cargo in­dus­try. Over 37,800 crore has been ear­marked for in­vest­ment into boost­ing the NHAI and State roads for bet­ter con­nec­tiv­ity. The cor­pus of 10,000-crore ven­ture cap­i­tal fund for start-ups will prove to be noth­ing less than a god-send for small-scale play­ers. The pro­posed in­vest­ment of

5,000 crore in ware­hous­ing is also heart­en­ing for the in­dus­try.

The govern­ment’s com­mit­ment to cre­ate sin­gle-win­dow e-biz por­tal for all clear­ances and pay­ments re­lated to reg­u­la­tory com­pli­ance is a very pos­i­tive move to­wards trans­parency.

The long-awaited de­mand of for­warders of 24/7 cus­toms clear-

an­ces in all ma­jor air­ports and ports was also ad­dressed in this Bud­get. Mov­ing be­yond, set­ting up of lo­gis­tic parks and pri­vate freight ter­mi­nals on PPP ba­sis would un­doubt­edly im­prove ef­fi­cien­cies and cargo han­dling.

Be­sides an ex­pected hike in freight charges, the Rail Bud­get has un­leashed a plethora of devel­op­ment for the cargo and lo­gis­tics com­mu­nity. For­eign Di­rect In­vest­ment up to 100% would be al­lowed un­der the au­to­matic route in rail­way in­fra­struc­ture projects, in­clud­ing projects like high-speed trains, sub-ur­ban and ded­i­cated freight cor­ri­dors un­der pub­licpri­vate part­ner­ship (PPP) mode. The bud­get has also pro­posed faster con­struc­tion of Tori-Shivpur-Kathau­tia, Jhar­sug­uda-Barpalli-Sardega and Bhupdeopur-RaigarhMand rail links, which have been de­layed by sev­eral years. A Di­a­mond Quadri­lat­eral has been an­nounced for high­speed trains, which would also ben­e­fit cargo move­ment. In fact, the Rail­way Min­is­ter

Sadananda Gowda has put for­ward the claim that In­dian Rail­ways would soon be­come the largest freight car­rier in the world! Over and above this, 16 new port projects have been an­nounced in the cur­rent fis­cal year. Fi­nance Min­is­ter Jait­ley also pro­posed to al­lo­cate an amount of 11,635 crore for the devel­op­ment of the first phase of the outer har­bour project in Tu­ti­corin. SEZs (spe­cial eco­nomic zones) will also be de­vel­oped in Kandla and Jawa­har­lal Nehru Port Trust at Navi Mumbai. That, and all the other prom­ises made in this Bud­get, would make any­one say that this is what the cargo and lo­gis­tics in­dus­try had been wait­ing for a long while. These moves were nec­ces­sary, and the govern­ment has heeded them, in a right move. What’s needed now, is pa­tience and hope of fruition.

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