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Straight from the Specialists

Budget 2013 not a death knell for reforms

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

In announcing the new budget, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram tried to square the circle. On the one hand, with the prospect of elections next year or possibly sooner, handing out costly goodies was always going to be a temptation. On the other hand, like its Western counterparts, the Indian government was faced with the fact that it must rein in public spending, which could anger some voters, not to mention dampen economic growth.

The trick, therefore, was to cut spending on areas where the negative impact would be least damaging. On that count, the budget met our expectations. We had long thought the deficit could be cut from 5.2 percent of GDP to 4.8 percent in 2014. And while the underlying nominal GDP growth assumption of 13.4 percent may be a stretch, we didn’t think it was beyond the realm of possibility.

What we found interesting is that the planned portion of the budget, which includes schemes for rural areas and construction, is programmed to rise by about 29 percent, whereas the relatively large non-planned portion should rise by a mere 11 percent. The latter includes expenditure on government operations that hardly help stimulate growth, as well as subsidies which are slated to fall by a heartening 10 percent.

The upshot of this manoeuvre is that it improves the budget mix: the spending on the more productive areas outpaces the economic growth rate, whereas the spending on the less productive ones rises at a slower pace, or even shrinks.

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.

Budget 2013: A high-calorie budget

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

India’s left-leaning government believes in the ‘eat more, burn more’ philosophy in managing its finances. Budget 2013 takes that idea further with an even stronger projected rise in spending.

If the increased spending is aimed at productive use, it may still end up doing some good. But the track record does not inspire confidence. I hope that after talking the talk, the finance minister will not lose his nerve when it’s time to walk the walk.

Budget 2013 does have some words of wisdom

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

The finance minister had a tough job in hand with this being the government’s last budget before elections due in 2014. P. Chidambaram had to focus on fiscal consolidation while walking a tightrope between populism and pragmatism.

In my previous column, I had written about the issues he needs to address. Here’s a look at how Budget 2013 fared on these counts.

Budget 2013: An opportunity missed

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

Industry leaders have hailed Budget 2013 saying that this is the best Finance Minister P. Chidambaram could have done under the circumstances. Opposition leaders have slammed the budget. Each had their own compulsions but I feel the truth lies somewhere in between.

Budget 2013: Visible impetus on growth

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

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram presented the annual budget at a time when India’s economy is going through a challenging period. India faces the four-pronged problem of high fiscal deficit, an unacceptably high current account deficit, declining growth and lower savings.

South China Sea: The zero-sum game

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

The Chinese have shown far greater alacrity in resolving disputes over land boundaries with neighbours than in drawing lines across international waters that they claim. A nation with land borders with 14 countries has settled its disputes with 10 of them, but finds it difficult to resolve its problems in the South China Sea.

Budget 2013: Balancing fiscal prudence and populism

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(Rajiv Deep Bajaj is the Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Bajaj Capital Ltd. The views expressed in this column are his own and do not represent those of Reuters)

With a four-month equity rally showing signs of fatigue, the focus is on Budget 2013 to provide further impetus.

India Markets Weekahead: Prudent to wait for the budget

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

After showing promise early in the week, the markets turned gloomy on Thursday with a sharp correction, ending the week with a 0.63 percent fall at 5850 – close to the support levels of 5840 which hasn’t been violated on a closing basis.

Budget 2013: Time for a responsible budget

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

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has promised a “responsible” budget this time around. According to Webster’s dictionary, “responsibility” is associated with a legal or moral accountability, reliability, trustworthiness in relation with some burden.

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