- Eight months into the financial year, or until end November, the Union government’s fiscal deficit — the amount by which its expenditure exceeds revenue — had already overshot the year’s budget target by a significant ₹65,573 crore. And as in everything with numbers, there are several interesting insights to be had, some fairly straightforward and self-explanatory and others less obvious and disconcerting.
- One of the biggest contributors to the wider fiscal slippage has clearly been the faster pace at which total expenditure has grown. While the government had in the Union Budget provided for overall spending to increase by a modest 6.6% over the revised estimates for the previous fiscal, data for April-November released by the Controller General of Accounts show a 14.9% jump year-on-year. A look at the individual ministries and how they have front-loaded their spending shows wide variability with several ministries still significantly underutilising their budget allocations over the first eight months. (One of the government’s aims when it advanced the budget presentation by a month to February 1 was to ensure that government departments had adequate time to spend the funds apportioned to them in an optimal manner.) Similarly, revenue receipts for the eight-month period have shown an underwhelming 1.1% year-on-year increase while the budget projection was for 6.5% growth. Even if some of the sluggishness in revenue receipts can be explained by the fact that the current year has been a one-off, transitional period given that the GST regime was implemented from July 1, there are other pressure points that policymakers need to square up with. Non-tax revenue at 36.5% of budget estimates compares unfavourably with the 54.2% garnered in the corresponding period of the previous year.
- There is also the issue of how the government is likely to account the additional capital it has announced as part of the recapitalisation effort to bolster the financial health of public sector banks. There is the additional ₹50,000 crore in market borrowing that the government has planned for the fourth quarter — a move it has said will not significantly impact the fiscal calculus since it simultaneously plans to scale back collections from treasury bills. The fiscal gap has widened in spite of a healthy jump in non-debt capital receipts, which include the ₹17,357 crore the government received from the public listing of state-run insurance companies, and steady improvements in corporate and personal income tax collections. That the figures revealing the fiscal slippage have come less than two months after Moody’s upgraded India’s sovereign credit rating serves as a reminder that there is little room for complacency. With monetary authorities at the RBI having reiterated the inflationary risks that a worsening fiscal gap would pose, and private investment still struggling to gain traction, policymakers would do well to try and regain their footing on the crucial path of fiscal consolidation.
Overshot: turned by water falling onto it from an overhead channel.
Example: On some estates, larger, more powerful mills with as many as three linked vertical overshot wheels were used.
Significant: sufficiently great or important to be worthy of attention; noteworthy.
Example: A significant increase in sales
Synonyms: notable, noteworthy, worthy of attention, remarkable, important
Antonyms: inconsiderable, trivial, slight, fragile, hole-and-corner, flimsy
Obvious: easily perceived or understood; clear, self-evident, or apparent.
Example: Unemployment has been the most obvious cost of the recession
Synonyms: clear, crystal clear, plain, plain to see, evident, apparent, manifest
Antonyms: unapparent, unprovable, unobvious
Disconcert: disturb the composure of; unsettle.
Example: The abrupt change of subject disconcerted her
Synonyms: unsettle, discomfit, throw/catch off balance, take aback, rattle
Slippage: the action or process of something slipping or subsiding; the amount or extent of this.
Example: $16 million has been spent on cracks and slippage
Variability: lack of consistency or fixed pattern; liability to vary or change.
Example: A great deal of variability in quality
Synonyms: discrepancy, variableness, division, variant, variability, variation, unevenness
Antonyms: evenness, invariability, invariableness, invariance
Adequate: satisfactory or acceptable in quality or quantity.
Example: This office is perfectly adequate for my needs
Synonyms: sufficient, enough, requisite; acceptable, passable, reasonable
Antonyms:deficient, undermanned, incompetent, short-handed, insufficient
Transitional: relating to or characteristic of a process or period of transition.
Example: A transitional government was appointed
Synonyms: changeover, interim, changing, fluid, unsettled, intermediate
Antonyms: unconditional, unconditioned
Garner: gather or collect something, especially information or approval.
Example: The police struggled to garner sufficient evidence
Synonyms: gather, collect, accumulate, amass, assemble, reap
Antonyms: spread, distribute
Treasury: the funds or revenue of a government, corporation, or institution.
Example: The country’s pledge not to spend more than it has in its treasury
Synonyms: coffers, purse, finance department, bank, revenues, finances
Complacency: a feeling of smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements.
Example: The figures are better, but there are no grounds for complacency
Synonyms: smugness, self-satisfaction, self-congratulation, self-regard, gloating
Antonyms: displeasure, grudge, irritation, offense, pique, resentment
Reiterate: say something again or a number of times, typically for emphasis or clarity.
Example: She reiterated that the administration would remain steadfast in its supportSynonyms: repeat, say again, restate, retell, recapitulate, go over
Antonyms: different, mismatched
Traction: the action of drawing or pulling a thing over a surface, especially a road or track.
Example: A primitive vehicle used in animal traction
Synonyms: apprehend, capture, catch, clasp, clutch, comprehend
Antonyms: fail of, fall short of, give up, let go, lose, miss, release
Consolidation: the action or process of makinxample: The permanent consolidation of peace
Synonyms: integrating, consolidation, integration, desegregation
Antonyms: segregation, sequestration