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01 March, 2007

Shikha Sharma, managing director, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance - "The increase in the exemption limit for health insurance premium to Rs 15,000 to Rs 10,000 will benefit senior citizens since the cost of insurance rises with age. For instance a 60-year old might pay around twice what someone below 40 pays. The tax breaks will be available to both non-life companies and life insurance companies with health plans approved under Section 80D of the Income Tax Act.

Antony Jacob, MD, Royal Sun Alliance - "The increase in the exemption limit for health insurance premium will encourage more people to buy health insurance, safeguarding their future in times of need and also improve market penetration."

TS Vijayan, chairman, Life Insurance Corporation - 'LIC's micro insurance plans will gain by the creation of two Rs 500 crore funds under Nabard. We could use both the technology and network developed by the financial inclusion fund. We also hope to benefit from the financial inclusion technology fund since our policies will have to be technology intensive if they are to be sold cheaply."

Ashu Suyash, Managing Director & Country Head Fidelity Fund Management Pvt Ltd - At a macro level, the Finance Minister has presented a Budget that does not make a directional departure from previous Budgets. There is an emphasis on spending in the agriculture and infrastructure sectors, which is welcome as they were lagging the growth in manufacturing and services. There were a few surprise announcements, which are sector specific, especially on IT and construction, but overall it is a neutral Budget.

On the capital markets side, the announcement relating to individuals being permitted to invest overseas through mutual funds is a very welcome one. Although, the USD 50,000 limit for individuals existed, there hadn't been too many takers given the complexity of investing overseas. We believe that this clarification will give investors a convenient and tested route to geographically diversifying their portfolios.

For the mutual fund industry, I think a key statistic is the savings rate that now stands at 32.4% - a good 3% more than the previous year and on a bigger GDP base. It is an indicator of the tremendous potential for mutual funds. The increase in dividend distribution tax on dividends paid by money market mutual funds and liquid mutual funds will have a near term impact on funds in these categories. However, there had been indications in media reports that this was on the cards and it is not an entirely unexpected development. In the longer term, we believe that cash funds and bank deposits play different roles and they each have their own place in treasurers portfolios.

Trevor Bull, Managing Director, Tata AIG Life Insurance Company Ltd - "For insurance, the only regulatory change is the 80D limit for deduction allowed for premiums paid for medical insurance has been increased from 10,000 to 15,000 and to 20,000 for senior citizens, which is a very positive move. There was a mention that the insurance bill would be presented in the Parliament. Though one would have expected more incentives on the insurance and pension investments, especially given that the savings need to be channeled for infrastructure. So this is definitely a missed opportunity".

U S Roy, MD & CEO, SBI Life Insurance - Viewed from the overall objective of sustaining a long term India growth story, the budget presented by the Honourable Finance Minister is positive. Initiatives taken for vocationalisation of education, rural & infrastructure development and for furthering healthcare, reflect continued focus and commitment towards inclusive growth. However there were no major surprises for the Life Insurance industry. The overall threshold limit for tax exemption should have been higher. Also, while globally Pension and life insurance companies are biggest investors in the area of infrastructure development, no significant measures in this direction have been presented. I strongly feel that, irrespective of tax implications, individuals should continue to make life insurance decisions through a personal finance review, keeping in mind current life stage, future financial goals and risk appetite.

Ajit Narain - MD & CEO, IFFCO Tokio General Insurance Co Ltd - "The Union Budget announced today is a general populist budget with no significant relief to "Common Man". The taxes have been further enhanced by incorporation of 1% additional cess for secondary education. We would however look forward to the comprehensive bill to amend insurance laws, which is proposed to be introduced in the budget session. The finance minister has increased the tax exemption limit for health insurance under section 80 D to Rs. 15,000/- and Rs. 20, 000/- for senior citizens which is a positive sign to encourage health insurance penetration in the country."