ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Budget 2018–19Subscribe to Budget 2018–19

Too Little, Too Late

The last budget of the Modi government comes against the backdrop of severe agrarian and rural distress. It is also the last opportunity to undo the damage caused to the rural economy by this government in the last four years. While the government has finally acknowledged the gravity of the situation, its response has been limited to empty rhetoric without any financial commitment. Going by the past record of the government, it is clear that it is serious neither in its commitment nor in its intent. The half-hearted measures are not only too little and too late, it is also clear that this budget is unlikely to revive the rural economy.

In a Macroeconomic Bind

Despite it being the government’s last full budget before the general elections in 2019, the finance minister, constrained by his self-imposed fiscal deficit targets, settled for rhetoric and promises that were not backed with allocations. This frozen macroeconomic policy has foreclosed all options to adopt proactive measures that could make a difference to those who need support. Yet, the financial interests he wants to impress also seem disappointed.

Incongruence between Announcements and Allocations

A scrutiny of the Indian economy and the state of public finances reveals that while there are a few areas of improvement under the current government, the economy remains fragile and, worryingly, the situation has worsened in some other respects. It was hoped that the Union Budget 2018–19 would take measures to address some of these concerns but these expectations have been belied. Budget 2018–19, possibly with an eye on elections, has made grand announcements instead of taking hard decisions and making adequate allocations towards key sectors of the economy.

A Confused Taxation Narrative

The Union Budget 2018–19 was presented against the background of a slippage in the fiscal deficit levels. The government has reiterated its commitment towards fiscal consolidation. In this context, an attempt is made to understand the tax revenue numbers for 2017–18 and 2018–19. The analysis suggests potential shortfall in the revenues budgeted for 2018–19.

New FRBM Framework

The structural inability to control revenue deficits needs different solutions from the usual argument that the utilisation of government expenditure is inefficient and that the government should spend less. It is time to relook at the way the union government spends.
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