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from Expert Zone:

Tough to get the math right in 2014/15 interim budget

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram went more by economic considerations than political ones in manoeuvring his pre-election budget, the focus being on fiscal consolidation with an eye on rating agencies.

The 2014/15 interim budget did not have any new populist measures. The minister may have been convinced that such gimmicks just before elections do not yield votes. Also, there was hardly any time to effectively roll out a new scheme.

The long-term policy target Chidambaram had set himself was to reduce the budget deficit to 3 percent of GDP. This is necessary to bring about price stability, reduce government borrowing, prevent overcrowding in the market and leave more financial resources with the private sector for investment. Although the budget engineering was on these lines, the way deficit has been restrained would not amount to fiscal consolidation.

For the current year, the deficit has been reduced to 4.6 percent from the budgeted 4.8 percent. This was possible in spite of an excess 49 billion rupees of non-Plan expenditure, which admittedly was not much in a 15.9 trillion rupee budget.

from Breakingviews:

France won’t meet its deficit target. No problem

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By Pierre Briançon

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

The French government will not meet its target of shrinking the budget deficit to 3 percent of GDP by 2015, according to the European Commission’s latest forecasts. Some voices will again call for the Commission to show some nerve, and dare to discipline one of the EU’s big powers for once. This won’t happen, for political reasons. But it shouldn’t - for economic ones. The only sensible response to the projected higher deficit should be: “so what?”

from Expert Zone:

The threat of a junk rating

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Credit ratings by agencies are never very objective and their long-term outlook is also seldom accurate. Sovereign ratings, in particular those which are not solicited, are generally unreliable and often biased. But rating agencies do draw attention to critical issues that should not be ignored.

Standard & Poor's announced on Friday that it had maintained India’s rating at BBB- with a long-term negative outlook. This assessment is based on three major considerations. The budget deficit, government debt and the current account deficit (CAD) are too high.

from India Insight:

Taxing times for reporters on the Chidambaram beat

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s drive to shore up government coffers is not just giving businessmen sleepless nights.

from Expert Zone:

Budget 2013: A rather ambitious budget

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(Rajan Ghotgalkar is Managing Director of Principal Pnb Asset Management Company. The views expressed in this column are his own and do not represent those of either Principal Pnb or Reuters)

Rating agencies have left India’s sovereign rating unchanged after the 2013 Budget. A rating downgrade would mean India getting junk status which is certainly not something one would want when the current account deficit is widening.

from Expert Zone:

Budget 2013: A run-of-the-mill affair

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Reuters)

After the sustained hype of a game changer budget, Budget 2013 was a totally run-of-the-mill affair with no announcements of any kind of deregulatory or growth propelling initiatives.

True enough, some of the more promising measures taken in the last 12 months were not related to budgetary statements. Not surprisingly, the Sensex greeted Budget 2013 by falling.

from Expert Zone:

Budget 2013: Chidambaram’s chance to bell the cat

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Reuters)

This year’s budget will be an interesting one and it will hopefully be more pragmatic than populist.

Not much has changed since Pranab Mukherjee presented the budget in 2012. At the time, India was battling high inflation at 9 percent, fiscal deficit at 5.9 percent of GDP and a current account deficit (CAD) at 4.2 percent of GDP.

from Expert Zone:

Budget 2013: High on expectations again

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not those of Reuters)

It’s budget time in India once again, the annual month of anxiety and expectations that everyone awaits with bated breath.

Budget 2013 will be especially important on two counts. Coming as it does ahead of crucial state elections, the Feb. 28 budget could be outrageously populist. But with the government not really following through on its policy reforms in recent months, the question is how intent can translate to concrete action. Tough decisions are needed with a greater focus on growth.

from India Insight:

A look at India’s last five annual budgets

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The countdown has begun for the biggest business and economic event of the year, the release of India's annual budget at the end of February, and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has a tough job on his hands. With general elections a year away, he must please voters, boost growth and control deficits.

In the last five years, the finance minister has always relaxed income tax slabs -- by either increasing the basic exemption limit or widening the tax slabs. As far as markets go, the 2009 budget day was the worst for stocks as the index fell around 950 points during trade. However, the focus has always been on the government's fiscal deficit targets, which have hovered around the 5 percent mark in recent years.

from Global Investing:

Indian markets and the promise of reform

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What a difference a few months have made for Indian markets.

The rupee is 8 percent up from last summer's record lows. Foreigners have ploughed $17 billion into Indian stocks and bonds since Sept 2012 and foreign ownership of Indian shares is at a record high 22.7 percent, Morgan Stanley reckons.  And all it has taken to change the mood has been the announcement of a few reforms (allowing foreign direct investment into retail, some fuel and rail price hikes and raising FDI limits in some sectors). A controversial double taxation law has been pushed back.  The government has sold some stakes in state-run companies (it offloaded 10 percent of Oil India last week, netting $585 million).  If the measures continue, the central bank may cut interest rates further.

Above all, there have been promises-a-plenty on fiscal consolidation.

The promises are not new. Only this time, investors appear to believe Finance Minister P. Chidambaram.

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