New govt must undertake reforms in land, labour, capital: NK Singh

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Published: May 18, 2019 12:28:15 AM

With committed expenditures rising and tax revenues slowing down, the Centre extended by a year (to FY21) adherence to the 3% fiscal deficit target set under the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act

15th Finance Commission chairman NK Singh15th Finance Commission chairman NK Singh

The incoming government should take on the challenge of introducing reforms in land, labour and capital to boost private investments, chairman of the 15th Finance Commission NK Singh said on Friday. “We were unable to achieve success on reforming factors of production,” Singh said at an Assocham event here.

Labour laws remain extremely complicated and there is need to bring reform by revisiting some of the issues like long-term contracts and dispute resolution, he said. There is a need to visit the area of cost, procedure and processes of land acquisition as well as the high cost of capital, which needs to come down to make businesses globally competitive, Singh said.

With manufacturing, agriculture and small services faltering and the government spending slowing, the gross domestic product (GDP) grew at a five-quarter-low rate of 6.6% in the September-December period (Q3) of FY19. The Central Statistics Office has also revised downwards the growth rate for FY19 to 7% — a five-year trough — from 7.2% in the first advance estimate released in January. Private investments have been languishing for a while; of late, there are signs of a slump in private consumption too.

“The fact that our economy is not competitive is… connected with inability of successive governments to be able to take on this difficult challenge. In terms of wish list for any new government, it would be that in the first year in office will they look to this… it needs political will.”

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“That is why I think the sagacity of the Indian people to elect strong, stable government will be one of the important factors which will bring reform in some of the factors of production,” he added.

Singh, who will submit the 15th Finance Commission report by October on how the Centre’s tax revenues would be devolved to the states for five years through FY25, noted that the Centre should ensure fiscal rectitude to sustain long-term economic growth and long-term macroeconomic stability.

“Macroeconomic stability is one of the things that will guide India’s high growth trajectory,” he said. With committed expenditures rising and tax revenues slowing down, the Centre extended by a year (to FY21) adherence to the 3% fiscal deficit target set under the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act.

With India’s debt-to-GDP ratio misaligning with peer group countries, Singh said the effort of the government has to be to bring it down both at the Central and state government level to the prescribed level.

The Singh-led FRBM Committee 2017 had suggested to bring down the general debt-to-GDP ratio to 60% by FY25 (40% for the Centre and 20% for the states). The Centre’s debt-GDP ratio is estimated at 48.9% for 2018-19. The outstanding liabilities of the state governments stood at 23.4% of the gross state domestic product (GSDP) at end-March 2017.

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