The fifth Union budget by Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government is gearing up to presented on February 1. This budget is going to be crucial as it will be the last budget before the Lok Sabha elections in 2019.
Priya Mahajan, Head of ASPAC Public Policy & Regulatory Counsel, Verizon Enterprise Solutions, explains the Pre-Budget expectations of the Information Technology and telecommunication sector and the need to implement robust economic and digital transformation.
The Government of India has made great strides to foster the growth and development of the Indian IT and telecommunication sector, strengthening the economic and digital transformation in the country. As the industry grapples with competition caused by digital disruption, we hope that the Union Budget 2018 will take into consideration key issues such as reforms in the Telecoms regulatory framework via industry consultation as part of new National Telecom Policy -2018 deliberations to promote Legal certainty, predictability and global consistency which will further foster Innovation & Investments in the IT and Telecom Sector.
The key to success of the Digital India initiative also lies in making the necessary reforms to the tax structures including Goods and Service Tax (GST) that have played an integral role in developing the country’s economic prowess.
Robust Data Privacy & Security Framework
We have witnessed the continuous rise of digital payments, further strengthening the digital economy. With the government’s push to increase the number of digital transactions, comes the inevitable increased threat of cyber-attacks. As Government of India has initiated steps to strengthen its Data privacy framework, we urge the Government of India to consider Global standards in this regard. The policy framework needs to be future proof and dynamic so that we can remain nimble and responsive to a constantly changing privacy landscape.
Ease of doing business
‘Ease of doing business’ remains a key consideration for companies wanting to invest. For the competitive telecom market, in particular, separate jurisdiction in commission rates were created for ICT companies to meet the regulations set by the Government. This will severely compromise the ease of doing business for telecom companies. Centralised assessment of telecom operators will significantly reduce issues in audits resulting in greater ease of doing business.
Reconsidering License Fee
Telecom services are an essential part of the Digital India initiative yet the sector is one of the highest taxed of the Indian Economy. With a cumulative astounding tax incidence of ~ 33 per cent of revenues, India tops the list of countries with such high tax burdens on the telecom sector. We hope to see some changes in the tax figures in regards to the telecom sector, which indirectly open new routes in the Indian economy.
In addition, the sector faces the higher standard rate of tax pledged at 18 per cent GST. Customers and subscribers in the sector are price sensitive, thus increase in tax rate has a direct impact on affordability of service further impacting operator’s revenue and contribution to exchequer.
Overall, simplifying technology implementations and reconsidering various structures in the newly introduced tax reforms along with promoting the use of digital services across various sectors of the Indian economy is exactly what the nation needs to encourage innovation and attract more foreign investment. With the government planning a number of key technology-centric initiatives, the Union Budget 2018 should recognise the importance of the IT and telecommunication sector and achieve a new milestone in moulding a new advanced digital India. India has transformed from being a major enabler to “the largest player” in the technology sector and should be given the necessary support and infrastructure to ensure the ease of doing business and sustaining global competitiveness. This will give the economy a boost and will move India one-step closer to achieving the Digital India Initiatives’ goal of $1 trillion business opportunity.