27 March 2013

The Explainer: What is Fiscal Deficit?

The first two parts of Understanding the Budget evoked good response. 

(Read: Understanding the Budget - Part I and Part II)

This post will dwell on the idea of Fiscal Deficit, a factor which is giving the Finance Minister of India the jitters.

What is Fiscal Deficit?
Fiscal Deficit is defined as the difference between the government's total expenditure and the total non-debt creating receipts.

What types of receipts are non-debt creating?
Revenue Receipts, Recoveries of Loans, and Other Receipts are all non-debt creating. This means that the government does not have to borrow to generate these sources of income.

Now, look at the accompanying table: Fiscal Deficit is numbered 22, Revenue Receipts is 1, Recoveries of Loans is 5 and Other Receipts is numbered 6.

(22) Fiscal Deficit = (16) Total Expenditure – (1) Revenue receipts + (5) Recoveries of loans + (6) Other Receipts)

Revenue Receipts
would include both tax and non-tax revenue of the Government of India (GoI).

What is tax revenue?
This refers to revenue that the GoI gets by way of collecting taxes, like Personal Income Tax, Corporate Tax (charged on incomes of companies), Central Sales Tax and Service Tax.

What is Non-tax revenue? 
This would include Stamp Duty and Dividends earned from Public Sector Units (PSUs). Dividend is the return on capital invested by the government in PSUs.

Sometimes the government of India receives money that it would have lent to some country/organisation in the past. When such money is received, it is recorded under the ‘Recoveries of Loans’ head.

When does Fiscal Deficit arise?
Fiscal Deficit arises when the government has expenditure higher than the revenue it generates. To bridge this expenditure-revenue deficit, the government resorts to borrowing. This borrowing is called Fiscal Deficit.

In short, fiscal Deficit is the total borrowing of the government of India to fund the allocations and expenditures listed in the Union Budget.

In the accompanying table, the Revised Estimates for 2012-13 show a Fiscal Deficit of Rs5,20,925 crore. In other words, what this figure means is that the Government of India is borrowing this huge amount of money in 2012-13! Yes, you got it right: a total borrowing of mind-numbing Rs5.2 lakh crore in one year!

Fiscal Deficit is usually expressed in terms of percentage of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Now, go to the bottom of the table. It is mentioned that India’s GDP in 2012-13 will be Rs10028118 crore; yes, you read it right: Rs100 lakh crore!

Taking India’s GDP to be Rs10028118 crore in 2012-13, the Fiscal Deficit of Rs5.2 lakh crore works out to 5.2% of GDP.

So, to say that we are living way beyond our means would be an understatement. While Fiscal Deficit is bad, one that is high could spell doom for the economic growth of the country. The next post will focus on the adverse consequences of Fiscal Deficit.

17 March 2013

Sunday Video - TED versus Onion Talks!

Let's take a break from serious Sunday Readings.

You must have watched at least one TED video. In India, a lot of folks are holding their own desi versions of  the TED series.

I have found most TED talks uninteresting. And I found that I am not the only one who thinks like this! There are similar thinking guys at theOnion.com too!

I stumbled on this Onion Talks spoof video series. Trust me this one is hilarious. Go ahead!

14 March 2013

The Explainer: Understanding the Budget - Part II

Two days back, I wrote the first part in the 'Understanding the Budget' Series under The Explainer Series.

(Read: The Explainer: Understanding the Budget - Part I)

In today's article, I am going to address some very important aspects of the Union Budget.

What does the Budget consist of?
Source: indiabudget.nic.in
Take a look at the table graphic on the right. This document titled, Budget at a Glance, is the best document to understand the components of the various types of figures in the Budget. 

The Union Budget 2013-14 consists of the following:
(a)   Actuals for 2011-12
(b)   Budget Estimates for 2012-13
(c)   Revised Estimates for 2012-13
(d)   Budget Estimates for 2013-14

The Actuals for 2011-12 may be represented as such but they STILL would be PROVISIONAL only (see notes below the table in the above graphic). This means that these figures are NOT the final figures for 2011-12 but are subject to further revision. In fact, the final figures for 2011-12 will only be available toward the end of Financial Year 2013-14 (or Fiscal Year ’14).

Budget Estimates (BE) relate to the figures which the Finance Minister set out in his Budget Speech last year (i.e., on 28 February 2013) for the Financial Year 2012-13.

However, all figures – related to revenue collection, expenditure, other allocations – are subject to change. These numbers are mere ESTIMATES and not actuals. As the year progresses, such figures may sometimes need to be revised. For example, if there is low industrial and agricultural activity (meaning lower economic output), tax collections may dip. This, in turn, will reduce the government’s Revenue Receipts.

In such case, the Government may revise the Budget Estimates (made in the Budget). Such altered figures are labeled Revised Estimates (RE). These RE are listed in the third column.

In the fourth and last column, you will find Budget Estimates for the coming Financial Year 2013-14. These figures reflect the various estimates made by the Government in terms of Receipts (including tax collections) and Expenditures (including interest payments and salary payments to government employees).

What are the different types of accounts listed in the Budget?
There are three types of accounts listed in the Budget. They are:
(a)   Consolidated Fund of India;
(b)   Contingency Fund of India, and
(c)   Public Accounts.

What is the Consolidated Fund of India?
This is the most important account maintained by the Government of India. The Consolidated Fund of India contains all the revenues (tax and non-tax revenues) earned and all the expenditures incurred by the Government of India.

No money from the Consolidated Fund of India can be spent by the Government without approval of the Parliament of India.

What is the Contingency Fund of India?
Contingency means ‘unforeseen’ or ‘emergency’. As mentioned above, all withdrawals  from the Consolidated Fund of India require prior approval of the Parliament. 

However, sometimes there are emergency expenses for which the Government may not wait for the Parliament’s approval; like, expenses incurred to tackle a devastating flood/earthquake.

In such cases, the Government of India will withdraw funds from the Contingency Fund of India. Once the expense is met, the Government may seek approval of the Parliament for such withdrawal. In short, the Parliament’s approval comes post-facto (i.e., after the expense has been made).

However, after the Parliament approves such expense, an equal amount is withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund of India to be put back into the Contingency Fund of India.

What are Public Accounts?
Public Accounts hold money that does not belong to the Government of India. Such accounts include the Employees Provident Fund and Small Savings Scheme. This money belongs to the general public but is held in Government’s trust.

Whenever withdrawals are made from such accounts, the Government pays out the amounts without the Parliament’s approval.

(To be continued)

12 March 2013

The Explainer: Understanding the Budget - Part I

In India, there is hardly any economic event that captures popular imagination as much as the Union Budget.  In a multi-part series, The Explainer will focus on the complex budget jargon that puts off even interested-in-budget souls.

I am writing this series of articles after receiving several requests from this blog’s readers and my friends on Facebook.

So, here we go!

What is a Fiscal Year?
Any twelve-month period that is used for submission of accounts, taxation purposes and to state financial reporting by private and public sector companies is called a Fiscal Year.

In India, the Government has laid down the provision that the 12-month starting on April 1 and ending on March 31 of next year will be treated as a Fiscal Year.

To put it in perspective, this article is being written on 12 March 2013, i.e., in Financial Year 2012-13. This is also called Fiscal Year ’13.

In the same way, the financial year for 2013-14 will start on 1 April 2013 and will end on 31 March 2014. So from 1 April 2013, we will enter Fiscal Year ’14.

Why is the Union Budget presented on the last day of February?
The Finance Minister of India presents the annual Union Budget in the Parliament of India. It is typically presented on the last day of February, for the following reasons: 

(a) After presentation, the Budget is tabled in the Parliament where members of both the Houses would debate the various provisions listed in the Budget. This would require a few days of debate and discussion. 

(b) Also, after such budget debate, any amendment to the original provision (like increasing or decreasing the allocation for a said ministry/program and rolling back any budget proposal) will have to be tabled, discussed, passed, and brought into law by the Parliament. 

(c) Also, the administrative system, especially in case of tax administration, would need to be geared up to reflect any change in the financial, taxation or any other system.

What is the Economic Survey?
The Finance Minister's Budget Speech contains two major components: Part A and Part B.

Part A of the Speech contains the Economic Survey while Part B comprises the Union Budget Speech. 

The Economic Survey is tabled by the Ministry of Finance in the Parliament along with the Union Budget. 

The Economic Survey is an assessment of the performance of the Indian economy in the fiscal year going by. For example, the Economic Survey 2012-13 presents an assessment of the performance of the Indian economy in that fiscal year (i.e., 2012-13).

So while the Economic Survey is an assessment of the performance of the Indian economy in the fiscal year gone by (i.e., the one that ends on March 31 this year), the Union Budget is a statement of revenues and expenditures for the coming fiscal year, i.e., the one that starts on April 1 of this year.

(To be continued)

09 March 2013

Sunday Reads - Droid Girlfriends & Investor-Grade Modi

Sunday Reads is back after a week's break.

  • The price of power: Naveen Jindal's struggle with profits and politics. (Caravan)
  • That's not a Droid; that's my Girlfriend. (Global Mail)
  • War-torn Wharton and investor-grade Modi (ToI Blogs; Ruminations)
  • People writing for free on the Internet is an enormous boon to the society. (Slate)