The finance ministry on Friday said rising crude oil prices could drive up India’s import bill in the range of $25-50 billion this fiscal, worsening the current account deficit.
The finance ministry on Friday said rising crude oil prices could drive up India’s import bill in the range of $25-50 billion this fiscal, worsening the current account deficit. However, elevated oil prices would impact neither economic growth nor the fiscal deficit of the Centre, economic affairs secretary Subhash Chandra Garg said, stressing that there is no threat to the country’s solid macroeconomic fundamentals due to weakening rupee, rising oil prices or foreign portfolio investor outflows.
Talking about the recent shortage of cash in some states, Garg said adequate amount of currency is available across the country now. “For the last few days in fact we are seeing net increase in the currency. In last three to four days there is surplus deposit of rs 4,000 crore,” he said. While the cash shortage was mainly driven by an unusual spurt in demand, he didn’t rule out the impact of increased demand ahead of Karnataka polls on the shortage.
On oil prices, Garg said the government would intervene only if prices exceed its comfort level, without mentioning the trigger point. He didn’t offer any commitment on duty cuts to provide relief to people but added the recent spurt in oil prices is unlikely to drive up the Centre’s petroleum subsidy bill from the FY19 budgeted level of Rs 25,000 crore. This is because of the two subsidised petroleum products — LPG and kerosene — only the latter has some remote link with global oil prices. The secretary also rejected suggestion that the Centre is benefiting much from rising fuel prices.
Goldman Sachs in a recent report said crude oil prices may rise further in the coming months, driving up the current account deficit (CAD) to around 2.4% of GDP in 2018-19 (from 2.1% forecast earlier), while Nomura has forecast the CAD worsening to 2% in calendar year (CY) 2018 from 1.5% in CY17, “reflecting higher oil prices and a strong cyclical recovery”. “Although funding should not be an issue, the basic balance of payments will be negative, making funding susceptible to global risk sentiment,” Nomura said in mid-March.
Globally, Brent crude broke through the $80 a barrel mark on Thursday for the first time since November 2014. Talking about the weakening rupee, the secretary said that the currency movement is normal and there’s no reason for panic. The rupee has declined from Rs 65 against the dollar on March 28 to Rs 67.50 on Friday. He also added that the volatility in the bond market will stabilise soon and that the government will continue with its borrowing programme, as planned, for the first half of this fiscal. As for the second half, there is space for a reduction in borrowing and that the government could decide to trim its buyback programme in H2.
In March, the government had said it would borrow just 47.5% of its budgeted full-year target (gross) through bonds in the first half of 2018-19 — much lower than the 60-65% in the corresponding period over the previous five years — and take more from the National Small Savings Fund (NSSF) to finance the fiscal deficit, as it seeks to ease pressure on the bond market that has witnessed a spurt in yield in recent months. With its plan to borrow Rs 25,000 crore more from the NSSF and reduce buyback by Rs 25,000 crore in 2018-19, the government signals its intent to trim its gross market borrowing by Rs 50,000 crore from its full-year budgeted target of Rs 6.06 lakh crore.