Budget must address problems of skill shortage
WITH just a fortnight away to go for the Union Budget 2008-09, it is time to give a wish list on what is expected. The Indian economy has been sanguine with GDP growth of 9.25% in 2006-07, inflation below the danger mark and sustainable interest rate. However, over 9% growth recorded in the past three years has not witnessed a commensurate jump in employment especially in the services sector. Since growth is largely services sector driven, the Budget must address the problems of skill shortage especially in the tourism and travel industry. The Prime Minister has been talking of skill development mission. This mission must emphasize on skill development in travel and tourism sector with emphasis on public private partnership. This being the high growth area will increase employability of the youth. The hospitality industry has been severely hit by the devaluation of dollars against rupee. The Budget must also address the problems being faced by the hospitality industry. The Centre is racing against time to ensure 1.15 lacs hotel rooms before 2010 Commonwealth Games. Haryana is also providing 10,000 rooms to meet the demand. The Centre, in the last Budget, had provided tax benefits for setting up hotels in Faridabad and Gurgaon region. These tax benefits must be extended to the whole NCR region which will increase the construction activities in the whole region especially Sonepat, Rohtak and Rewari. India, which is a melting pot of diverse faiths, is seeing a phenomenal growth in religious tourism. Kurukshetra in Haryana has to be developed as a major religious spot. his segment, however, is in need of infrastructure especially budget hotels and connectivity to support the boom. Therefore, the budget hotels for the religious places need to be given tax benefits which are essential for tourists to have complete experience. India would need to have world class infrastructure for the promotion of tourism and we must plan regulatory mechanism which will stimulate investments in the infrastructure sector. The author is minister for tourism, forests, environment, sports & youth affairs