budget 2019: Finance Minister has no leeway to offer any big surprises in Budget: Economists

Economy


Investors and the market should not expect any big surprises from the first Budget by the first woman finance minister Friday, economists at largest private sector lender HDFC Bank have said.

Citing “time constraint”, they said finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman‘s first budget will “broadly be a replication” of the interim budget, with some action on the election promises and some tweaks on the tax and expenditure figures.

The room for a fiscal stimulus is “constrained” considering that achieving the interim budget’s target of 3.4 percent can in itself be a “tall order”, they said in a note penciled Thursday.

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Stating that fiscal deficit assumptions in the interim budget rested on a higher nominal growth of 11.5 percent, it warned that if the slowdown and low inflation spill into the first half, nominal growth can be much lower than what is being currently assumed.

There can be some revisions on the revenue side as the interim budget implied a robust 34 percent growth in tax collections, but such a buoyancy is not possible even in a good growth year, they said.

There are bigger constraints on the expenditure side, it said, adding the fiscal commitments to the ongoing schemes are already high and financing for them can be an issue.

However, the report noted that in FY19, government had cut expenditure by a whopping Rs 1.45 trillion, resorted to off-budget borrowings and transferred its expenditure to central enterprises to meet the fiscal deficit target.

The “key issue” in the budget will be the quantum of “surplus” that the RBI will transfer, it said, adding the most optimistic of the figures in this is Rs 3 trillion and this can open up space for expansionary fiscal policy.

However, the economists said their baseline scenario is for a staggered payout of any money “given the clear lack of consensus” in the Bimal Jalan panel that has been formed to decide this amount and the signal of erosion of the RBI’s independence.



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