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Straight from the Specialists

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.

With an increase in tax rates for corporates and the rich, and perhaps help from a reflating economy, the budget hopes for a 19 percent increase in tax collection. It is also budgeting for a 16.4 percent increase in overall spending. And this is despite an implausible 10 percent decline in subsidies.

Given that it wants to keep its borrowings under check, the government is hoping for a 134 percent increase in disinvestment of its shares in public companies (but not through privatization). If the IMF’s definition of fiscal deficit is used, which treats disinvestment as financing not revenue, then there is really no decline in the deficit expected. Clearly, the government’s voracious appetite remains as stout as ever.

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.

Budget 2013: Eye on short-term and long-term objectives

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

India’s annual budget always attracts a lot of interest and this year’s edition will be especially important. Budget 2013 is not just significant because it’s the last to be tabled before parliamentary elections due next year but also in light of economic headwinds.

Areas that require immediate attention include the need to invigorate investment, pacify rating agencies, lower subsidies, address structural bottlenecks and jump-start domestic growth. This will require the administration to make tough choices. A turnaround in investment, in particular, is unlikely in the short term.

Budget 2013: What the oil and gas sector expects

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

India’s oil and gas sector, often regarded as the country’s growth engine, has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade, but the quest to reach the top of global league remains a challenge because of rising under-recoveries and lack of policy incentives.

The sector is a key revenue earner for the central and state governments. In 2011/12, it contributed 2,327.69 billion rupees to central and state governments in taxes, accounting for 20.6 percent of total indirect taxes.

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