Emerging fiscal prospects in India: central government
As per the CGA, center’s gross tax revenues (GTR) showed an unprecedented growth of 97.1% in 1QFY22. However, it largely reflects a strong base effect because in 1QFY21, there was a contraction in center’s GTR of (-)32.6%. Center’s tax revenues in 1Q as percentage of the full year BE for FY22 is 24.0% which is much higher than the corresponding percentages in recent years covering FY17 to FY21. This reflects that the recovery in center’s gross tax revenues in 1QFY22 may lead to an upward revision in the budget estimates for this fiscal year in due course. For non-tax revenues, it is notable that the dividend that the central government receives from the RBI has been substantially raised in terms of its magnitude. RBI’s dividend to the central government in FY22 at INR99,122 crore looks quite high although it reflects the effect of a change in the RBI’s accounting year from July-June to April-March and RBI paid the dividend of the nine months of the previous year in 1QFY22. The Ministry of Finance in collaboration with the NITI Aayog has recently released the guidelines and the detailed program relating to the National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP) which is estimated to garner INR6 lakh crore over the period from FY22 to FY25. In FY22, the estimated amount is INR0.88 lakh crore.”
On the whole, the revenue side of center’s budget reflects positive prospects and in all likelihood, revenue receipts in FY22 may improve upon the budget estimates by a tangible margin. As this trend becomes more evident, the central government will have a choice to use the additional revenues for supporting the economy by increasing expenditures over and above the budgeted amounts. Alternatively, the central government may choose to reduce the fiscal deficit below the budgeted magnitude. Given the need to strengthen the growth momentum, the first option may be considered desirable.
With respect to expenditures, there has been an emphasis on frontloading capital expenditure while delaying revenue expenditures. Capital expenditure grew by 26.3% in 1QFY22 while revenue expenditure showed a contraction of (-)2.4%. As a percentage of the annual budgeted expenditure, center’s revenue and capital expenditures in 1QFY22 do not appear out of line with the corresponding ratios relative to actuals in recent years.
Conclusion: fiscal prospects and reforms in India
Both the IMF and the RBI have projected India’s real GDP growth to recover to 9.5% in FY22. Some of the high frequency indicators for the period up to July 2021 also confirm a strong ongoing recovery in the Indian economy. The fiscal situation appears to be comfortable based on trends for the first three months of FY22. If these trends continue, these may open options for the government to further strengthen the growth momentum of the economy.
Looking at the need for rebooting the economy after COVID’s deleterious effects in FY21 and partially in 1QFY22, the policymakers would now need to focus on strategic growth initiatives to provide a solid foundation for a robust medium-term growth. For this purpose, it is important to catch up with the progress made so far in regard to the earlier planned National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) which may have been partially derailed due to COVID. It is time now to take stock of the status of investment in NIP and identify sectors characterized by deficient investment measured against the original NIP targets. The recently launched NMP is also being aligned to the NIP to supplement its financing. With center’s revenue receipts likely to be more than the budgeted magnitudes, the government may have the option later in the year, to either lower the fiscal deficit or increase the expenditures as compared to the budgeted magnitudes. It may be desirable to go for strengthening demand by increasing government expenditure so as to lay a sound foundation for medium-term growth. This would require sustained emphasis on building up infrastructure including that for the health sector.