ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Economics, Prudence, and a Pandemic

Clinging on to orthodox fiscal prudence is not the best practice in the time of a pandemic.

Incongruence between Announcements and Allocations

A scrutiny of the Indian economy and the state of public finances reveals that while there are a few areas of improvement under the current government, the economy remains fragile and, worryingly, the situation has worsened in some other respects. It was hoped that the Union Budget 2018–19 would take measures to address some of these concerns but these expectations have been belied. Budget 2018–19, possibly with an eye on elections, has made grand announcements instead of taking hard decisions and making adequate allocations towards key sectors of the economy.

Once More on the ‘Humbug of Finance’

While an expansionary monetary policy acts by respecting private rationality, an expansionary fiscal policy, involving larger government expenditure financed by a fiscal deficit or taxes on capitalists, implicitly highlights the limitations of private rationality. Finance capital not surprisingly opposes the latter, even though the proffered arguments for “fiscal responsibility” have no theoretical validity. Given the current world economic crisis, a spate of beggar-my-neighbour policies are on the horizon. 

Erroneous Understanding of Macroeconomic Challenges

The government chose not to adequately expand budgetary expenditure to stimulate aggregate demand due to an erroneous understanding of India’s macroeconomic challenges. It relies heavily on imagined fiscal gains from demonetisation and the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax regime. The Union Budget 2017–18 was a missed opportunity for the government and our economy.

Emerging Issues in Union–State Fiscal Relations

The restructuring of non-Finance Commission Grants is an improvement when it comes to scheme-related transfers. However, when 10 schemes constitute 90% of core grants, there is further scope for rationalisation of these schemes. The implications of following a sustainable debt path under the new Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management framework in the budget indicate a larger fi scal correction at the state level vis-à-vis the union government.

What Does the Rural Economy Need?

The agricultural sector has performed worse than the other sectors over the years. The shares of non-agricultural employment and output have increased, while70% of agricultural householdscannot meet their low consumptionneeds even after diversification of sources of income. An analysis of budgetary provisions for the rural economy suggests that the government has not done enough to address some of these well-documented problems, and does not have the required vision to substantially increase rural employment opportunities.

An Examination of Revenue Generation

The revenue side of the budget is scrutinised to understand if the government is being realistic about revenue generation in 2017–18. Clearly, there is over-optimism, given that economic growth will be slow. Too much is expected from voluntary disclosure and penalties, while incentives are not in place. It would make sense to allow some slippage in the deficit targets in order to revive the economy. In addition, the increasing problem of cesses is discussed with reference to the Krishi Kalyan Cess to assess whether cesses serve the purpose for which they are introduced.

Economic Policy Uncertainty and Growth in India

A measure of economic policy uncertainty or EPU for India is constructed to study its impact on the economy. It is found that gross domestic product growth and fixed investment are negatively related to EPU in India. For instance, if the economic uncertainty were to decrease to the level observed in 2005, India's GDP growth would increase by 0.56%, and fixed investment growth would increase by 1.36%. Additionally, a negative correlation between the Bombay Stock Exchange index and EPU in India is observed, suggesting that increases in EPU lower expectations of future growth or increase perceived risk of listed stocks. Lastly, it is found that firm-level capital expenditure rates are lowered when EPU increases.

Karnataka's Changing Fiscal Landscape

Analysing the second Karnataka budget since the Fourteenth Finance Commission award, it is noted that, as assured, more fiscal space is made available to the state government. With greater untied funds, the state has budgeted for higher capital expenditure in some key areas--urban development, police, and tribal welfare--even as it failed to build capacity for power generation, and has introduced too many schemes with too little funds allocated to each.

Contemporary Macroeconomic Analysis

Looking Back at Macroeconomics 101: A Ringside View of the Global Financial Crisis from Asia in Real Time by Alok Sheel; Academic Foundation, 2015; pp 422, ₹1,295.

Delinking Housing Cycles, Banking Crises, and Recession

The nexus of housing boom-busts, banking crises, and economic cycles is not unique to the last crisis and has been increasingly present in each of the major banking crises since the break-up of Bretton Woods in the early 1970s. Housing is a politically charged issue. A safer housing market, via planned fiscal intervention to steady supply, would do more to make the financial system safer than all of the other recent initiatives put together. Cheaper finance without cheaper homes only deepens housing inequality.

The New Keynesian Paradigm of Monetary Policy

While Keynes was sceptical of the efficacy of monetary policy , the current mainstream macroeconomic consensus , "New" Keynesian macroeconomics , accords it primacy in the process of maintaining both price and output stability. This consensus depends on three relationships: demand is inversely dependent on the interest rate, inflation is positively related to the output gap and the central bank can control interest rates to achieve an optimum combination of price and output. This paper presents a theoretical critique of this consensus from an "old" Keynesian perspective since Keynes had raised fundamental objections to each of the three relationships .

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