Monday, May 30, 2016

Committee to review FRBM targets

I was on ET Now along with Prof M Govinda Rao to discuss this topic.

My view is that there is  a strong case for revisiting the targets. I give many reasons. Here I will mention two. One, our deviating from the FRBM target for nearly a decade past the deadline has not led to an unsustainable debt  situation. On the contrary, India is among the few economies whose debt to gdp ratio has declined over the past decade- at 67% of GDP today, it looks quite okay.

Two, we worry about the fiscal deficit because it can impact on interest rates. The impact on long-term rates of fiscal deficits is negligible, as empirical work has shown. However, the deficit can impact on short-term rates. On this count, concerns must be subdued at the moment given relatively low oil prices.

More fundamentally, I would question the idea that the way to reduce the fiscal deficit to GDP ratio is to attach the numerator, that is, reduce expenditure and, if possible, raise tax rates or increase the tax base. The point is that that is not how our ratio came down significantly in the first decade of the 2000s when we were almost close to attaining the 3% FRBM target at one point.

Rather, the numerator, the GDP, shot up due to exogenous factors, such as the global boom, and also due to the increase in the savings and investment rate over time. This also caused the numerator to decline because tax revenues rise with rising GDP.

The bottomline: the presumption that reducing the fiscal deficit is the key to better or stable growth must be questioned. It's very often the other way round. You do various things to boost growth - and the the fiscal deficit to gdp ratio takes care of itself. 


Anonymous said...

Hi Prof,

It would be interesting to see what are the fiscal deicit targets achieved in other major economies. I recall seeing a column by S Gurumurthy that there is no European country or US that has been able to achieve the fiscal targets continously/consistently ... particularly after formation of EU. I donot understand the reason for most commentators exhorting the government to place fiscal deficit above all else in the priorities.


Unknown said...

How do we contact you Sir?