Monday, March 12, 2012

India's fiscal crisis in graphics

It is clear that whatever the RBI does with monetary accommodation, the path towards creating conditions for sustainable economic growth lies in reining in the growing fiscal deficit.

A recent report by the Goldman Sachs estimated the combined fiscal deficit of states and center for 2011-12 to touch 9% of the GDP, easily the highest among all the major emerging economies. It attributes this high deficit to the twin problem of falling tax base and ballooning subsidy burden. The Rs 40000 Cr gap in the ambitious disinvestment target is another major contributor.

The biggest long-term concern is the low tax-to-GDP ratio. India's tax-to-GDP ratio is again among the lowest among the major emerging economies.

Worse still, after steadily rising since beginning of the last decade, it has been falling since the recession struck. And it shows no signs of having bottomed out and is expected to fall further this year.

Subsidies are the elephant in the room. The food, fertilizer and fuel subsidy bills have been rising alarmingly in recent years. Unfortunately, with the 2014 elections looming large, the prospects of structural reforms to roll-back subsidies appears bleak.

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