India seeks lower import taxes on key raw materials

NEW DELHI: India’s steel ministry wants lower import taxes on a number of key steelmaking raw materials, including nickel, to protect the domestic industry from the
rising costs of basic resources, a senior government official said on Tuesday.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley could announce some of these measures when he presents his annual budget for the 2017/18 fiscal year on February 1.
The finance ministry could even scrap the current 5 per cent import duty on nickel, largely used in stainless steel production, Aruna Sharma, the top civil servant at the steel ministry, said.
“Nickel is not present in India at all, so our argument is there is no point in having the customs import duty on it. There is a case to do away with it,” Sharma said.
The ministry has also sounded out the government about lower dividend payouts by state-owned companies, including Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), the biggest steel producer, due to their poor financial health, Sharma said.
India’s steel sector, which accounts for Rs 1.3 trillion ($19.06 billion) of bad debt in the banking sector, is likely to get some relief from banks working on a proposal, Sharma said, without giving details.
“A formula has been worked out by the banking system. Now, it is between individual banks and companies engaged in the talks. This will help relieve the stress a little bit,” she said. Sharma ruled out an earlier proposal from banks that involved SAIL taking over the assets of a debt-laden company.— Reuters