India Does Not Rule Out Fiscal Consolidation Pause This Year

India cannot rule out a pause in its fiscal consolidation plan in the year through March: Chief Economic Advisor.

India Does Not Rule Out Fiscal Consolidation Pause This Year
A customer holds Indian rupee banknotes. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

(Bloomberg) -- India cannot rule out a pause in its fiscal consolidation plan in the year through March, a key government adviser said, setting the government’s tone ahead of Thursday’s budget.

"Setting overly ambitious targets for consolidation -- especially in a pre-election year -- based on optimistic forecasts that carry a high risk of not being realized will not garner credibility," Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian said in the Economic Survey presented in Parliament on Monday.

Sovereign bonds extended decline, with the yield on benchmark 10-year notes rising by four basis points to 7.35 percent as of 1:43 p.m. in Mumbai. The rupee declined 0.1 percent to 63.5775, while Indian equities extended gains on optimism over strong growth projections in the economic survey.

In the budget presentation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to strike a balance between giving incentives to taxpayers before 2019 national polls and reassuring rating companies looking for an improvement in one of Asia’s widest budget deficits. It’s Modi’s last budget before national polls in 2019.

India’s economy is expected to grow at 6.75 percent this year on the back of a recovery in second half of the year, the annual report said. It sees India’s gross domestic product expanding to about 7-7.5 percent next financial year and warned economic management will be challenging in the coming year due to the overall economic and political background.

Structural Reform

In the first eight months of the year, India’s fiscal deficit reached 112 percent of the target, largely because of a shortfall in reduced dividends from government companies, the survey said, noting higher-than-estimated revenue from asset sales would partially offset this. The government’s effort to seek more dividend from the central bank is said to have failed.

The effects of an unprecedented ban on high-value currency notes in November 2016 and a new national sales tax in July -- which pulled growth down to the levels seen before Modi’s election in 2014 -- appear to be receding, the survey said. It projected a rebound in private investment and exports, but cautioned persistently high oil prices remain a key risk.

"A pause would imply a fiscal deficit target similar to last year, that is 3.5 percent of GDP," said Sonal Varma, chief India economist at Nomura Holdings Inc. "The reason for a pause is primarily a structural reform like GST."

Most economists in a Bloomberg survey published last month predict Modi will keep the budget gap target for the year starting April 1 unchanged at 3.2 percent of GDP. That would mean a pause as the government had earlier pledged to lower the deficit to 3 percent.

The survey pegged GDP growth at 6.75 percent in the current year -- the lowest since Modi came to power -- and 7.5 percent next year. The government is scheduled to publish its second advance estimate for this year’s GDP on Feb. 28.

The government’s policy agenda for coming year would be to support agriculture, stabilize GST, finish resolution and recapitalization, privatize Air India and head off macro-economic pressures, Subramanian tweeted.

--With assistance from Kartik Goyal and Santanu Chakraborty

To contact the reporters on this story: Abhijit Roy Chowdhury in New Delhi at, Vrishti Beniwal in New Delhi at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at, Ruth Pollard, Unni Krishnan

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