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Straight from the Specialists

Budget 2014 is only the first step

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

Much was expected from Budget 2014/15 without realizing that India’s economy has its own rhythm, which changes only by small degrees if left to itself. That is why big-ticket reforms are necessary to quicken the pace. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had reason to move forward with caution and make changes only at the fringes.

Labourers work at the construction site of a multi-level parking in ChandigarhNo wonder then that P. Chidambaram almost welcomed the budget as if it was a carryover from his own budget. Even the increase in shareholding by foreign investors in the insurance and defence sector, which Jaitley has announced, had been on the previous government’s agenda. Now that the opposition has shrunk, the Modi government took the first opportunity to do that, though with conditions.

The reason for carrying forward the agenda of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government could possibly be that the new government had little time to consider the nuances of any new approach to policies and the apprehension that any radical departure from previous budgets may see the repeat of opposition behavior in earlier parliament sessions.

Not that significant changes haven’t been made, but they are not so visible. The budget speech is silent on the cap on LPG cylinders, decontrol of diesel subsidies or direct benefit transfers, which are included in other budget papers.

Budget 2014/15 reveals priorities, sets the stage

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

The new Narendra Modi government rides on a long wishlist of policies and reforms, with limited resources. Budget 2014/15, as expected, reveals the government’s priorities in the near and medium term.

Arun Jaitley poses as he leaves his office to present the union budget for the 2014/15 fiscal year in New DelhiThe inflation moderation imperative overshadows near-term headline growth desires, manifested in aggressive (albeit challenging) fiscal deficit targets. The projected fiscal deficit of 4.1 percent (3.6 percent of GDP in FY16) versus the 4.6 percent recorded in FY14, is in line with expectations. The reduction in the budget deficit is driven by hoped-for revenue growth rather than depressed spending growth.

India Markets Weekahead: ‎Book out of high-beta stocks

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

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley (C) poses as he leaves his office to present the federal budget for the 2014/15 fiscal year, in New Delhi July 10, 2014. REUTERS/StringerThe Narendra Modi government presented its maiden budget on Thursday. Although the budget was welcomed by industry leaders, the market meltdown seems to be telling a different story, with the Nifty posting its biggest weekly loss in 15 months.

Should it have been a path-breaking budget or is it prudent to build the economy brick-by-brick by walking the middle path? The much hyped “bitter pill” turned out to be a “bland” one.

National agenda to bring $100 billion of domestic household savings in capital markets in next five years

(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 Thomson Reuters)

Currency of different denominations are seen in this picture illustration taken in Mumbai April 30, 2012. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash/FilesIndia is an attractive investment destination for foreign institutional investors, due to its vibrant economy, favourable demographics, high growth potential and well diversified capital markets. In fact, the benchmark Nifty has representation from 10 broad sectors, four with weightage in double digits.

Modi’s first budget can be a great start

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

There are few opportune moments for a nation to enact bold economic reforms. For India, this week is one of them as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government unveil their first budget since sweeping to power in a landslide victory last May.

India needs the sort of shock therapy it administered in response to the 1991 crisis when foreign exchange reserves had dropped to just $1 billion. While current circumstances may be less urgent, they are no less critical. Economic growth has dropped to the 4-5 percent range, half the peak level of a decade ago. Inflation has risen between 9 and 11 percent over the past five years, crippling consumer purchasing power.

India’s Iraq problem

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(This piece comes from Project Syndicate. The opinions expressed are the author’s own)

Iraq seems to be falling apart, with the rapid advance of the militant Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) threatening to lead to the country’s division into Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish entities, while blurring its border with its turbulent western neighbor. Moreover, the tumult is now threatening to spread to two more nearby countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan, which already are facing myriad internal challenges. For India, the message is clear: its national security interests are at risk.

‎India Markets Weekahead: Correction could follow budget week

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

Last week’s robust pre-budget rally belied expectations, with the Nifty closing up more than 3 percent at a record high of 7,751‎. Automobile sales, manufacturing PMI as well as services PMI showed an uptick. The Iraq turmoil seems to have taken a back seat with oil prices receding from a nine-month peak. A rally in world markets, with life highs for the DJIA and S&P 500, also aided sentiment.

India’s fiscal deficit in the first two months has already touched 45.6 percent of the full-year target. Though this would have been a negative indicator, the markets welcomed Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s remarks about focusing on fiscal consolidation against “mindless populism“.

The crisis in Iraq and an Afghanistan prognosis

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

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has rampaged through western Iraq. A few thousand kilometres away in Afghanistan, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is withdrawing, with Americans contemplating less than 10,000 troops on ground.

The Iraqi and Afghan landscapes have festering ethnic and sectarian divides in common. In Iraq, the ISIL has crafted one of the best success stories for radical Islamists in recent history. Is a similar manoeuvre on the cards in Afghanistan?

India Markets Weekahead: Wait for post-budget opportunities

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

Markets were fairly volatile last week, reacting to tough measures taken by the Narendra Modi government to get India’s economy back on track amid worries over monsoon rains and the situation in Iraq.
cfcd208495d565ef66e7dff9f98764da.jpgLong-term investors hailed the hike in railway freight and passenger fares as a step in the right direction to bring down indirect subsidies. However, the government rolled back the hikes on suburban fares to a large extent due to political considerations.

Monsoon rains have started on a weak note but if the rains pick up in July and the El Nino effect is tempered, it would have a direct impact on inflation and interest rates.

Higher tax revenue from higher growth

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

The 2013-14 budget got completely out of hand because of a whopping shortfall in tax revenue. Development outlays had to be drastically cut to manage the fiscal deficit.

The key to the budget is revenue. The ratio of gross tax revenue to GDP reached a high of 11.9 percent when GDP growth was at its peak of more than 9 percent in 2007-08. Since then, both declined and the ratio has been in the narrow range of 10-10.7 percent. GDP growth is a painless way of raising revenue.

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