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Straight from the Specialists

Budget 2013: Political strategy, not economic blueprint

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

With the dust settling after Budget 2013, the picture is getting a bit clearer. Opinions on the budget have ranged from praise to outright criticism. The true position lies somewhere in between — depending on one’s political inclination, views on the finance minister and one’s financial interests.

Most agree there is considerable misalignment between diagnosis and prescriptions in the budget. The three biggest problems identified by P. Chidambaram are:
- rising fiscal deficit that needs to be controlled
- high current account deficit and
- declining economic growth rate.

But the solutions proposed in the budget seem to address only the fiscal deficit problem and that too temporarily. While the finance minister has done well to stay within the limit of 5.3 percent, the improbable arithmetic of the budget for FY14 suggests that the fiscal deficit target of 4.8 percent of GDP seems to be a strategy for buying time and a leap of hope.

The economy has to grow about 6.5 percent in FY14 to generate the necessary tax revenues and also have a large enough denominator. This appears to be too optimistic. Too many hurdles remain — economic slowdown may not have bottomed out, little improvement in the investment sentiment, and a weak global economy.

Budget 2013 should trim expenditure

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

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram is only too aware of the damage done by the last budget and has to an extent repaired it to unleash investment. The next budget should confirm his commitment to growth.

The year the Indian economy stalled

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

The year 2012 has seen the worst an emerging market economy can tolerate. Had the government been a little less reticent and more proactive, growth would not have dropped this low in spite of the economy being mauled by inflation. Other emerging market economies did exactly that.

Will Indian stocks end 2012 on a happier note?

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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)

The rally in the Indian stock markets, fuelled by the so-called reform announcements, seems to have fizzled out. Frontline indexes have retraced more than 60 percent of the gains made since Sep. 13, 2012, the day the reform measures were made public.

Higher growth can help lower deficit

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

India’s bloating budget deficit has been a matter of concern. It means more borrowing by the government which results in overcrowding of the debt market and consequently, a higher rate of interest for the private sector. It also raises the rate on borrowings from abroad due to the downgrading by rating agencies which is bound to follow.

When will the repo rate be reduced?

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

In his policy review on Oct. 30, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor D. Subbarao stuck to his position that money cannot be made cheap when commodities are becoming expensive.

RBI policy: Cut in repo rate imperative

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is fixated on inflation and with that rigid mindset it is difficult to expect any liberalisation of monetary policy. But there are other parameters that have changed. Food inflation was down in September if that is any comfort. More than that, the budget deficit will be reduced with a cut in subsidies on diesel. There are also initiatives being taken on reforms. Obviously, the RBI needs to tune its policy to fit the new situation. If the RBI does change its stance, what instrument is it likely to use?

Time for real reforms, but low-hanging fruits remain

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

What seemed to be a lost cause merely three months ago has staged a remarkable comeback: the Indian government’s zeal for reform. After many months of dithering, the ruling Congress party remembered that it had the spine to stand up to fierce opposition from various state governments, finally getting its way on certain measures.

The RBI and its inflation dilemma

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(Arvind Chari is a senior fund manager of Quantum Asset Management Company Private Limited. The views expressed in this column are his own and do not represent those of either Quantum AMC or Reuters.)

The wholesale price index number for September (7.81 percent) poses a dilemma for the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). With the finance ministry leaving no opportunity to make its case for lower interest rates and exhorting the RBI to take ‘calibrated risks’, the recent inflation data gives no comfort to the RBI to go ahead and confidently cut the repo rate in its October policy review.

When will India’s reforms show results?

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

After a long silence the spell has finally been broken. The second phase of reforms in the country has begun with almost the same conviction as the first but under different conditions. The 1991 reforms were under compulsion but the present reforms are voluntary. This is because the last 20 years have been a test to prove to ourselves that reforms help and they have substantially helped to make the country an emerging market economy.

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