Expert Zone

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: 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“.

Currencies and the collapse of globalisation

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

We live in stirring times. The president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, crossed the monetary policy Rubicon and cut one of the euro area’s key interest rates into negative territory. This is dramatic stuff, as even the most economically oblivious are likely to recognise that negative interest rates are a radical policy.A picture illustration of Euro banknotes and coins taken in central Bosnian town of Zenica

At the same time, the United States Federal Reserve is gracefully gliding out of its quantitative policy position – and by October that money printing process is likely to be effectively at an end. The question from most investors is therefore “what next for U.S. monetary policy?”.

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 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.

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.

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: 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.

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.

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