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A fiscal deficit occurs when a government’s total expenditures exceed the revenue that it generates, excluding money from borrowings. A hot political polariser abroad, it is generally considered too theoretical to effectively sway the common man in India. But that doesn’t mean we can’t actually see how the Ministry of Finance has fared in its attempt to curb it from burgeoning to uncontrollable levels.
To spell out the result before we see how we get there, the Ministry of Finance led by the more than capable Finance Minister, Mr. Arun Jaitely, has been able to reduce the Gross Financial Deficit from 4.5% of Gross Domestic Product in 2013-14 to 3.6% of Gross Domestic Product in 2017-18. Even though the absolute values might signal something rather insignificant, this is a rather significant reduction when you consider the fact that 0.9% of the Gross Domestic Product of India is 28 Billion US Dollars.
Let’s look at how some of the Government’s flagship schemes have helped in this reduction.
The Make in India program has helped to greatly increase the Foreign Direct Investment in India. During the four years of the NDA-led government, foreign inflows jumped to USD 222.75 billion from USD 152 billion in the previous four-year period.
The Government’s other major push, the push to increase tax compliance, not necessarily collection, has paid off major dividends. The advent of the GST and programmes to help increase the number of people who pay the taxes has improved the Government’s Taxes on Income as a proportion of GDP ratio, which has gone up from 2.1% in the financial year ended 2014 to 2.6% in the financial year ended 2018. This is also due to the increased taxes on higher income classes and the introduction of taxes on capital gains from the stock market.
At the same time though, Mr.Jaitely has been careful to not drastically increase taxes on large corporations to make he doesn’t give any more incentive to the alarmingly rising group of wealthy individuals fleeing the country and looking at more tax-friendly shores.
This is shown by the fact that corporate tax revenue as a percentage of GDP has actually declined in the last 4 years.
The biggest gains of course, have come from unarguably the biggest change seen in India’s financial world in the last year, the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax.
From being 4.5% of GDP in 2013-14 to 5.7% of GDP in 2017-18. A staggering increase.
However, the increased collection from the Goods and Services tax actually went to the states. After distributing to the states, the actual net increase in collections only went from 7.3% to 7.6% of GDP in the last 4 years. So how did he rein in the deficit you ask?
The real masterstroke, has been decreasing the Government’s gross expenditure while maintaining the government’s everlasting agenda for infrastructural growth. Total expenditure, capital expenditure and subsidies; have all been slashed by the Government.
But how has India been setting records in road building and other public works? The trick here has been the allocation of resources to the right sectors. The whittling down on spending of subsidies has freed up resources which have been spent on infrastructure. The huge drops in oil prices have helped too.
All in all, even if the people don’t care about the theories of the fiscal deficit, they do care about the development in front of their eyes. The Prime Minister does care about implementing his Gujarat model of infrastructural development and Mr. Jaitely’s shrewd spending pattern has been a big driving force behind it. Has it been successful? The people will let us know in under a year.
-By Aryan Grover and Vaibhav Garg for D-Street