Union Budget 2019: Actual fiscal deficit will be known only in June-July budget, says NR Bhanumurthy

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Published: January 17, 2019 6:39:47 PM

Union Budget 2019: The interim budget presented by finance minister Arun Jaitley will also not have revenue deficit number as FM Jaitley had last year amended the FRBM Act on the basis of NK Singh committee report.

Union Budget 2019NR Bhanumurthy is professor at National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP).

Union Budget 2019: There is a concern among economists and policy makers that the Modi government may not be able to meet the fiscal deficit target of 3.3% for 2018-19 set by finance minister Arun Jaitley in the last budget. Opinion is sharply divided on whether FM Jaitley will be able to meet the deficit target and also on whether he should. The government has already borrowed 115% of its annual target in the first 8 months of the financial year. The real fiscal deficit numbers will not be known on February 1 when the finance minister introduces the interim budget, says NR Bhanumurthy, Professor at National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP), Delhi. The real numbers will only be known when the new government passes the finance bill after the elections. he says. Edited excerpts of an interview with Financial Express Online’s Krishnanand Tripathi:

Q: Will the finance minister manage to meet the fiscal deficit target this year?

A: Actually he can do both. Why I am saying both because the fiscal deficit numbers that will be given in the revised estimate on February 1 are projections. So when he presents the budget then he might still show the number in revised estimates as 3.3% but when the final numbers will come in June or July then it is my guess that it will be different from 3.3.

Q: If the FM decides to show a different number on February 1, for example like 3.5% then will it affect India’s rating?

A: I don’t think that he will show a different number on February 1 but I am more concerned about one thing: whether he will show the distinction of Revenue Deficit. In the last year’s Finance Bill he did not show the fiscal deficit number. April Gazette notification showed that there is no concept of Revenue Deficit. (FE: Revenue Deficit is the difference between Revenue Receipts and Revenue Expenditure). So I would be surprised if he stills shows the Revenue Deficit concept when he presents vote-on-account budget on February 1.

Q: So last year he did not show the Revenue Deficit number!

A: Last year, he showed but in the finance bill, the concept of Revenue Deficit was not there. And when it was passed and the Gazette Notification came on April 2, 2018, it only showed the fiscal deficit as well as the public debt number but not the revenue deficit.

Q: But it (revenue deficit) was there in the ‘Budget at a Glance’ and other budget papers!.

A: Because that was for the last year, by then we still had the distinction of Revenue and Fiscal (Deficits) for 2018-19, I am talking about the Gazette Notification issued on April 2, that doesn’t have the distinction.

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