Budget may not be populist but will not disappoint either

Robyn Valdez
February 1, 2018

Will Jaitley stick to the 3 percent (of GDP) fiscal deficit target for 2018-19 set past year?

Ahead of the budget, Modi - who came to power in May 2014 and faces re-election by mid-2019 - said in an interview with the Times Now news channel on January 21 that it is "a myth" that the average person wants sops and freebies, rebuffing the idea that the budget must be populist.

Budget 2018 is a landmark event as it will be the first one after the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

"We expect finance minister to recognise real estate as an industry in the upcoming budget since it stands as a major contributor in economical growth of the country by providing employment to millions and supporting various ancillary industries".

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Markets remain nervous after the government's annual economic survey on Monday suggested "a pause" in fiscal consolidation, sending bonds plummeting. This budget will be the last chance for the Modi government to woo the large Indian mass.

Also on Jaitley's menu may be upping spending on infrastructure projects like highways and modernisation of railways to boost economic growth that is at a four-year low. Analysts also expect a tax cut to fulfil wishes of the salaries tax-payer. Nomura says "this largesse is to be funded through a cyclical pick-up in GDP growth (better tax buoyancy) and increased GST proceeds (better tax compliance)".

"Naturally, the number one on the wish list of the common man is an increase in the basic exemption limit from Rs250,000 to Rs300,000, considering that the slab rates were last revised in Budget 2014".

With a number of fiscal reforms already in place, and with direct tax collections up by 18.7 per cent post the demonetisation period, the budget is widely expected to provide some relief in personal taxes. Also the interest rates must further be rationalised as must tax rates as the burden is ultimately passed onto the consumer.

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The printing of the Budget documents starts roughly a week before the date of the Budget presentation.

"Therefore, tax uncertainty results in an increase of risk when investing in any given project drives investors to either withhold investments or require a higher rate of return to account for this risk, thus raising the cost of capital in the uncertain market", said Biswal, who was the Obama administration's point person for South and Central Asia.

With every sector eyeing on Jaitley's magical briefcase, experts believe that the budget would be focussed on rural economy.

"Given the fact that agriculture continues to be a drag on overall GDP growth and the government's ambition of doubling farm incomes by 2022, Jaitley can't afford to neglect the rural sector", said Kulathakal.

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"We may see policies aimed at eliminating supply side barriers to in agricultural markets while also trying to increase the efficiency with which markets function". Before that, the budget used to be presented on the last day of February.

Other reports by Info About Network

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