BREAKINGVIEWS - Stern budget will help India shrug off bad past

Thu Feb 28, 2013 3:50pm IST

Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram (C) arrives at the parliament to present the 2013/14 budget in New Delhi February 28, 2013. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram (C) arrives at the parliament to present the 2013/14 budget in New Delhi February 28, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Adnan Abidi

Related Topics

Coal Mining In The Punjab

Coal Mining In The Punjab

In Choa Saidan Shah miners dig coal with crude pick axes and load it onto donkeys to be transported to the surface earning a team of 4 workers around $10 to be split between them.  Slideshow 

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

By Andy Mukherjee

SINGAPORE (Reuters Breakingviews) - When P. Chidambaram returned to the finance ministry last summer, he was widely expected to do something to help the economy recover from its recent bad past of slow growth, high budget and current-account deficits, stubborn inflation, elevated interest rates and inadequate investment. In Thursday's budget he has lived up to most of those expectations.

Although next year's elections put a limit on how much the government can control its spending, Chidambaram has gone slow in expanding subsidies. For instance, he has allocated just a fifth as much as proponents of the yet-to-be-passed food security bill wanted. Politics might yet force a larger handout later this year, but at least he's resisting fiscal suicide.

(Chidambaram calls for tough choices, click here)

The welfare state can only be expanded safely after the government's near-complete capture of household financial savings has ended. Only then will the private sector be able to borrow at viable interest rates, allowing growth to revive. The finance minister is moving in the right direction. He plans to limit the government's net borrowings to 4.84 trillion rupees in the year that begins on April 1, virtually unchanged in nominal terms from this year and a lower percentage of GDP.

(Rich taxpayers to pay 10 percent surcharge, click here)

Fiscal restraint should boost the nation's overall financial savings, which have collapsed over the past few years as the government's profligacy led alarmed households to buy imported gold. In turn, higher domestic savings should reduce both India's record-high current account deficit, almost 5 percent of GDP, and the nation's dependence on hot money inflows to fund that deficit.

Chidambaram's expectation of a 19 percent increase in tax collections next year is reasonable. It requires nominal GDP growth to increase about 12 to 13 percent, plus the receipts from a higher tax rate on most companies and the richest 43,000 individual taxpayers.

The focus of expenditure control is on limiting the government's current consumption. But Chidambaram has not forgotten the future. The budget for much needed capital spending has gone up a whopping 37 percent.

The stock market is disappointed because investors had extremely high expectations. But what the budget lacks in flash, it more than makes up for in substance.

(Budget 2013 highlights, click here)

(Editing by Edward Hadas and David Evans)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

REUTERS SHOWCASE

WTO Row

WTO Row

U.S. raises stalled WTO talks with India, no sign of breakthrough  Full Article 

Pharma Sector

Pharma Sector

FDA raises concern over drug production process at Cadila  Full Article 

Fed Policy

Fed Policy

Fed presses forward with bond buying, cites uptick in inflation.  Full Article 

Q2 Profit Slips

Q2 Profit Slips

Samsung sees tough second half  Full Article 

Chinese Economy

Chinese Economy

China should set lower 2015 GDP growth target of 6.5-7 percent - IMF  Full Article 

Tracking Monsoon

Tracking Monsoon

Monsoon rains turn below average in past week  Full Article 

Joint Bid

Joint Bid

ONGC, Oil India bid $1.5 bln for stake in Murphy Oil's Malaysia assets - sources  Full Article 

Economy Reboots

Economy Reboots

U.S. economy back on track with strong second-quarter rebound  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage