CEMENT companies are asking finance minister P Chidambaram, who slapped a dual duty regime on them last year, to reduce local levies and reimpose countervailing duty (CVD) on imports in the forthcoming Budget. Industry players claim that cement is the highest-taxed essential infrastructure input in the country with the combined levies coming to 70% of ex-factory price. “Reduction of central levies and excise duty on cement is important to make this product more affordable, especially for housing and infrastructure projects,” says industry body Ficci. It is precisely to make cement more affordable and keep inflation in check that the government in the last Budget introduced differential duty structure for the commodity.
FICCI has also urged for a reduction in VAT on cement. It has demanded that the current rate of VAT on cement, which is 12.5%, be brought in line with similar important construction material like steel at 4%. This would certainly help in containing the cement.
Prices by Rs 20 per bag, the industry body says. Vinod Juneja, joint managing director of Binani Cement, said: “In the last Budget, cement sector was one of the neglected sectors. Compared to other countries, the excise duty on cement in India is very high and I hope the new Budget will address the issues. We have also requested the finance minister to impose import duty on cement and reduce import duty on washed coal.”