02 February 2021

Eco Basics: Understanding Fiscal Deficit


Today's article focuses on Fiscal Deficit.

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/organization 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 table above, the Budget Estimate for Fiscal Deficit for 2020-21 (total borrowing) was projected at Rs7,96,337 crore. But the economic ravage brought about by the Covid pandemic destroyed major sources of tax and non-tax revenues. 

The shortfall in Gross Tax Revenue (includes GST, Income Tax, Corporation Tax and other taxes) was Rs5,22,740 crore. The projected figure for Gross Tax Revenue in 2020-21 was Rs24,23,020 crore, but the Central Government could collect only Rs19,00,280 crore. 

So, the Revised Estimates for 202021 show a Fiscal Deficit of Rs18,48,655 croreIn other words, what this figure means is that the Government of India is borrowing this huge amount of money in 2020-21! Yes, you got it right: a total borrowing of mind-numbing Rs18.48 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 2020-21 will be Rs194,81,975 crore (Rs194.8 lakh crore).

Taking India’s GDP to be Rs194,81,975 crore in 2020-21, the Fiscal Deficit of Rs18,48,655 crore works out to 9.5% of GDP.

So, to say that we are living way beyond our means would be an understatement. However, given the Covid pandemic-induced shutdown there was little elbow room for the Central Government to raise revenue and hence, it had to resort to very heavy borrowings to fund its welfare schemes. like providing free food grains and direct cash transfer to millions of heavily impacted vulnerable sections of the society. 

In the next post, I will write on how a high Fiscal Deficit could spell doom for the economic growth of the country. 

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