India needs to create additional Fiscal Space: Economic Survey 2014 - 15
The Survey advocates a medium-term fiscal strategy to create this space. The space, it says, is necessary to insure against future shocks. The recommended strategy would also take India closer in fiscal performance, to that of its emerging market peers.
The Survey outlines the two pillars of this medium-term strategy:
1. Reduce deficits
a. Reduce fiscal deficit over the medium term to the established target of 3% of GDP
b. Move towards the golden rule of eliminating the revenue deficit
c. Ensure thereby that borrowing over the cycle is only for capital formation
2. Expenditure Control and Expenditure Switching
a. Maintain a firm control on expenditures, in order to achieve the above targets
b. Improve quality of public expenditure; shift away from public consumption (by reducing subsidies) towards investment
Based on Fundamental Principles as well as History
The medium-term fiscal strategy is based on fundamental principles of fiscal policy, as well as on the need to maintain fiscal credibility.
The Survey invokes the following golden rule: Governments are expected to borrow over the cycle only to finance investment, and not to fund current expenditures. Short-term targets should be set accordingly. This, the Survey argues, would assist the Government to take the Indian economy back to a durably higher growth path.
These considerations are reinforced by legacy and credibility issues. Adhering to fiscal deficit target set earlier is essential to maintain credibility and provide policy stability.
The Survey explains how an analysis of India’s recent fiscal history too buttresses this strategy.
Need for Fiscal Action in short-term too
The Survey states that fiscal action cannot wait; it should continue in the upcoming year as well. It however adds that the need for accelerated fiscal consolidation has reduced, in view of reduced macroeconomic pressures.
Targets comfortably attainable
The Economic Survey assures us that concrete actions in the Union Budget to implement the medium-term fiscal strategy outlined above would lead to a comfortable attainment of the medium-term targets. India can thus balance i) the short-term imperative of boosting public investment to revitalize growth, with the ii) need to maintain fiscal discipline.