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Arun Jaitley to balance populism, fiscal prudence

Arun Jaitley to balance populism, fiscal prudence

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will present Union Budget 2018-19 in the Upper House of Parliament tomorrow.

Until 1999, the Union Budget was announced at 5 pm on the last working day of February.

JOB CREATION: Employment generation has always been top on agenda of Modi govt.

The Prime Minister tried to lower expectations of voter-swaying announcements when he indicated that the Budget may not resort to populism and that it was a myth that the common man wants sop.

Considering the government's long term vision as well as the trend set through the earlier budgets, the focus this time is expected to remain largely on housing, infrastructure and the rural economy. In India, a new financial year begins in April.

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"USIBC members believe that unless resolved, the lack of clarity in the government's approach to taxation risk will undermine progress in other areas of the economy and will continue to damage India's reputation among investors", the memorandum said. However, some analysts are optimistic that GST collections will pick up in the future as economic growth accelerates and the government takes more measures for compliance. "In a nutshell, we are looking forward to an industry-friendly budget with designated funds allocated to accentuate the growth of the industry over the coming years", said Nitin Aggarwal, CEO, Prayag India. India last July launched the GST, or Goods and Services Tax, a much-awaited reform that simplified indirect taxes across the country. During the earlier oil price collapse, the entire benefit was not passed on to the consumer. Economists have already warned that bond yield volatility could rise further if the government deviates significantly from fiscal discipline. It is also speculated that the budget may reinstitute the concept of standard deduction to provide some relief to tax-payers.

But he has to do all this while sticking to the road map of narrowing one of Asia's largest budget deficits, as failing which, India may fall on the wrong side of global investors and credit rating agencies which had late previous year handed out a rare sovereign upgrade. "There are more chances of either going right or wrong". The Budget of fiscal year 1973-74 is known as the "Black Budget" as the nation had a deficit of Rs 550 crore.

Benchmark 10-year bond yields have fallen 135 bps and the NSE share index has surged 55 percent since Modi took power in May 2014.

As the government can not excessively depend on bond issuance, Modi is likely to seek higher targets for divesting state-owned assets in the new budget. While the option of bringing petroleum sector under GST - which experts say is bound to happen in the future - remains unlikely for now. The Economic Survey presented by the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday in Parliament had projected India's GDP growth ranging between 7 to 7.5 % in the upcoming fiscal year.


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