Impact of the Union Budget 2018 on MSMEs

Rajath Kumar

MSME is an important sector for the Government, as it maintains a relentless focus on increasing GDP and employment. Formalization of MSME businesses is being undertaken on a massive scale after demonetization and the introduction of GST. The core focus of the Union Budget 2018 indicates the Government’s commitment to continue strengthening MSMEs from the base of the sector.

Lending a Hand to MSMEs

With the Union Budget 2018-19 in play, the refinancing policy and eligibility criteria under Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency (MUDRA) program will be reviewed to encourage easier financing of MSMEs by NBFCs.  The Government has set a target of ₹3,00,000 crores for loans to be provided under MUDRA in 2018-19. Specific measures to address NPAs of MSMEs were promised to ease the cash flow challenges that they face.  The tax burden on MSMEs has been reduced by axing tax rate to 25% for those with revenues of below ₹250 crores. Recapitalization of PSU banks will add an additional ₹5,00,000 crores to the available lending pool this year. A unique Aadhaar-like identity for each enterprise is planned for streamlining business identity. This measure can enable Fintech lenders to process eKYC of enterprises swiftly and offer working capital finance in a matter of minutes. Furthermore, the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley called out Fintech lenders in his speech and emphasised their importance in financing the development of MSMEs in India.

Operation Greens

A five-year tax holiday was granted to Farmer Producer Organisations (FPO) with a turnover below ₹100 crores to encourage post-harvest value addition. The Government has also promised a Minimum Support Price (MSP) crop of 1.5 times the production cost to farmers. In addition, several proposed measures related to the farm sector include – funds to develop agricultural markets, improve agricultural logistics, enhance rural connectivity, and distribute Kisan credit cards to farmers in fisheries and animal husbandry sectors. This sets the precedent for these sectors to create a digital footprint, facilitating them to receiving customized finance in the future from digital lenders like Capital Float.

The Finance Minister proposed to extend the tax relaxation period to 150 days to footwear and leather industry to boost the creation of employment at the grassroots level. An additional ₹10,000 crores have been allocated for fisheries, animal husbandry and aquaculture industries.  This is expected to aid more micro-segments in being included in the formal financial ecosystem

New Financing Avenues

In a bid to help start-ups and venture capital firms to attract foreign investments in niche areas, the Government will evolve a coherent and integrated policy for ODI (Outward Direct Investment) and hybrid instruments. The basket of eligible FDI instruments will be expanded to include these under certain conditions.

Taking a Position on Crypto Assets

The Government has reiterated that it is illegal to transact using cryptocurrencies, though it does not categorically state that it is illegal to hold these assets.  The Government will intensify its efforts to eliminate illicit transactions in cryptocurrencies. It also proposes to explore the use of Blockchain technology to enable more transparent payment mechanisms to boost the digital economy further. These efforts certainly forward the shift of business transactions from being paper-based to paperless, while adding clarity on which methods of digital payment are acceptable and which aren’t.

MSME – Key to India’s Industrial Growth

MSME sector plays a key role in India’s journey towards becoming the 5th largest economy in the world. Several measures to ease cash flow have been proposed which are likely to make lending more readily available to MSMEs. With Fintech lenders leading the charge on the financing front, MSMEs can be expectant to receive timely credit support to actualize their business ambitions and achieve remarkable growth this year. Several micro-segments are also expected to be absorbed into the formal financial system, as Fintech lenders like Capital Float continue to champion for the cause of financial inclusion in India.