Economic Survey 2013 highlights: 'Downturn more or less over', now 'cut subsidies'

Feb 27 2013, 14:36 IST
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Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram holds the economic survey 2012-13 report at the parliament in New Delhi February 27, 2013. (Reuters) Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram holds the economic survey 2012-13 report at the parliament in New Delhi February 27, 2013. (Reuters)
SummaryEconomic Survey wants people to pay for all goods, services used - an end to subsidies.

Claiming that the "downturn is more or less over", the pre-Budget Economic Survey today projected an optimistic 6.1 to 6.7 per cent economic growth in the next fiscal and made a strong call for cutting subsidies.

While pegging the GDP growth at an estimated 5 per cent for the current fiscal, the Survey tabled in Parliament by Finance Minister P Chidambaram said "...the overall economy is expected to grow in the range of 6.1 to 6.7 per cent in 2013-14" as the economy is looking up.

"Controlling the expenditure on subsidies will be crucial. The domestic prices of petroleum products, particularly diesel and LPG need to be raised in line with their prices prevailing in the international market," the Survey said.

It noted that a beginning has already been made with the decision in September last to raise the price of diesel and again in January to allow oil marketing companies to increase prices in small increments at regular intervals. The number of subsidised gas cylinders has also been capped at 9 per household.

Predicting that the headline inflation will decline to between 6.2 and 6.6 per cent by next month, the Survey said that elevated food inflation would continue to remain an area of concern as it inched towards double digit in December 2012.

The Survey emphasised that efforts will have to be made to contain subsidies through better targeting and for reducing leakages involved in their delivery. One such initiative is direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme.

It said the government has been calibrating pricing policies to addressing the issue of burgeoning fertiliser subsidy and underlined the need for according priority to food subsidy in view of the under consumption of basic food by the poor and the extant of malnutrition.

The government has sought to correct this through National Food Security Act though concerns have been expressed that this would lead to a higher subsidy outgo.

"However, it is a part of the challenge of prioritisation to provide for this basic need even as other items of expenditure are minimised," the Survey said.

The Survey said while India's recent slowdown is partially rooted in external causes, domestic causes are also important.

The strong post-financial-crisis stimulus led to stronger growth in 2009-10 and 2010-11. However, the boost to consumption, coupled with supply side constraints, led to higher inflation. Monetary policy was tightened even as external headwinds to growth increased.

The consequent slowdown, especially in 2012-13, has been across the board, with no sector of the economy unaffected.

Falling savings without a commensurate fall in aggregate investment have led to a widening current account deficit.

Wholesale price indexed inflation (WPI) has been coming down in recent month. However, food inflation, after a brief slowdown, continues to be higher than overall inflation. Given the higher weightage to food in consumer price indices, CPI inflation has remained close to double digits.

Another consequence of slowdown has been lower than targeted tax and non-tax revenues. With the subsidies bill, particularly that of petroleum products, increasing, the danger that fiscal targets would be breached substantially became very real in the current year, the Survey said.

"The situation warranted urgent steps to reduce government spending so as to contain inflation. Also required were steps to facilitate corporate and infrastructure investment so as to ease supply.

"Several measures announced in recent months are aimed at restoring the fiscal health of the government and shrinking the CAD as also improving the growth rate. With the global economy also likely to recover somewhat in 2013, these measures should help in improving the Indian economy's outlook for 2013-14," it said.

The economy is projected to grow at 5 per cent in current fiscal, the lowest in a decade. It was 6.2 per cent in 2011-12 and 9.3 per cent a year ago.

The projections of 6.1 to 6.7 per cent growth next fiscal takes into account normal monsoon, moderation in inflation rate and mild recovery in global growth.

"While India's recent slowdown is partly rooted in external causes, domestic causes are also important," it said, adding boost to consumption coupled with supply side constraints led to higher inflation.

It said the growth story is unlikely to get support from the global economic developments and would remain tied to movement in international oil prices.

Chief Economic Advisor Raghuram G Rajan in his introduction to the Survey said: "These are difficult times, but India has navigated such times before, and with good policies it will come through stronger."

Rajan prescribed shifting national spending from consumption to investment, removing the bottlenecks to investment, growth and job creation, besides making efforts to reduce cost of funds.

SURVEY-HIGHLIGHTS

(PTI) Following are the highlights of the Economic Survey 2012-13 presented in Parliament today by Finance Minister P Chidambaram:

*Economic growth pegged at 6.1-6.7 pc in 2013-14

*March 2013 inflation estimated at 6.2-6.6 pc

*Priority will be to rein in high inflation

*FDI in retail to pave the way for investment in new technology and marketing of agriculture produce

*Survey calls for widening of tax base and prioritising expenditure to bridge fiscal deficit

*Calls for curbing gold imports to contain current account deficit

*Aadhaar-based direct cash transfer scheme can help plug leakages in subsidies

*With subsidies bill increasing, danger of missing fiscal targets is real in FY13

*Survey pitches for hike in prices of diesel and LPG to cut subsidy burden.

*Foreign Exchange reserves remains steady at USD 295.6 billion at December, 2012-end

*At present, overall energy deficit is about 8.6 pc and peak shortage of power is about 9 pc.

*Infrastructure bottlenecks affecting industrial sector performance

*Prospects for world trade as well as of India are still uncertain.

*Pitches for further opening of sectors for FDI

Following are highlights of the report:

(Reuters) Finance ministry delivered a the Raghuram Rajan-led Economic Survey 2013 report on the state of the economy on Wednesday, a day before FM P. Chidambaram unveils what is expected to be the most austere federal budget in years and recommended that diesel and LPG prices be hiked.

The annual report was prepared by Raghuram Rajan, the former chief economist to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) who became the top adviser in the finance ministry last year.

GROWTH

* India's GDP growth seen around 5 pct in 2012/13

* India's GDP growth seen at 6.1-6.7 pct in 2013/14

FISCAL DEFICIT

* India likely to meet fiscal deficit target of 5.3 pct of GDP in 2012/13, despite "significant" shortfall in revenues

* India government target for fiscal deficit is 4.8 pct of GDP in 2013/14

* India government target for fiscal deficit is 3 pct of GDP in 2016/17

* Prioritisation of expenditure seen as key ingredient of credible medium-term fiscal consolidation plan

* Raising tax to GDP ratio to more than 11 pct seen as critical for sustaining fiscal consolidation

* Room for accommodative monetary policy with expected fiscal consolidation

INFLATION

* India's headline inflation may ease to 6.2-6.6 pct in March

CURRENT ACCOUNT DEFICIT

* Focus on curbing imports, making oil prices more market determined to reign in current account deficit

* Recommends curbing gold imports to reign in current account deficit

* Room to increase exports in the short run limited

FOREIGN INFLOWS

* Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) flows need to be targeted towards long-term rupee instruments

SECTOR GROWTH

* India's industrial output seen growing around 3 pct in 2012/13

REPORT COMMENTS

* "Controlling the expenditure on subsidies will be crucial. The domestic prices of petroleum products, particularly diesel and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) need to be raised in line with the prices prevailing in the international markets."

* "These projections assume a normal monsoon, further moderation in inflation as expected (to induce further relaxation of the tight monetary stance), and mild recovery of global growth as anticipated."

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