Nirmala Sitharaman, the union finance minister, said on Friday that the Narendra Modi administration has given middle-class citizens many tax breaks, including an exemption from paying income tax on income up to Rs 7.27 lakh annually. She noted that there was suspicion in certain quarters when the Union Budget for 2023–2024 chose to grant income tax exemption for people earning up to Rs 7 lakh. This was despite her claim that no segment of society had been left out by the government.

She remarked that there was suspicion over what would happen to those revenues of just over Rs 7 lakh. As a result, “we convened as a team and delved into the technicalities (to figure out) at what time you pay tax for every extra Re 1 you make… (for example), you don’t pay any tax today for Rs 7.27 lakh. Only at Rs 27,000 does it reach break-even. You start paying taxes after that.

“You are also entitled to a standard deduction of Rs. The complaint with the new system was that there was no standard deduction. It is presently given. We have made the payment rate and the compliance side simpler,” Sitharaman added.

Speaking of the government’s accomplishments, she said that the entire budget for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) grew from Rs 3,185 crore in 2013–14 to Rs 22,138 crore for 2023–24.

This represents the government’s consistent commitment to supporting the MSME sector, she added, since it represents an increase in budgetary allocation of nearly seven times in only nine years. She claimed that 33% of all purchases made by 158 Central Public Sector Enterprises under the “Public Procurement Policy for Micro and Small Enterprises” initiative came from MSMEs, which is the greatest percentage to date.

We created the Trade Receivables Discounting System (TReDS) platform, she continued, “so that MSMEs and other businesses wouldn’t experience any cash flow problems as a result of a customer’s failure to pay.”

Sitharaman said the ONDC (Open Network for Digital Commerce) has enabled MSME businesses to reach out to a larger potential customer base and added that the world appreciates that India has set up a public platform comparable to the ‘Amazons of the world’.

Pointing out that India’s efforts to improve the ease of doing business are being acknowledged on the global stage, the minister said the country’s ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index surged from 142 in 2014 to 63 in 2019.

“We have reduced unnecessary compliance burden by repealing more than 1,500 archaic laws and nearly 39,000 compliances. Decriminalisation of the Companies Act has happened,” she noted. The Finance Minister also inaugurated the Common Facility Centre (CFC) at the Indian Institute of Gems and Jewellery (IIGJ) in Udupi.

In 2017, while serving as the Commerce and Industries Minister, Sitharaman had laid the foundation stone of IIGJ in Udupi. The facility has been set up with her MPLADS (Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme) funds as well as support from the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council & National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad.

The institute will provide training to the youth in the region in various aspects of hand-crafted jewellery making. Earlier in the day, Sitharaman visited Adamar Mutt and Sri Krishna Temple in Udupi.

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