The anticipation around Budget 2024 is heightened, considering its potential impact on the economic landscape. In this exclusive interview with HSBC’s Pranjul Bhandari, Niraj Shah delves into crucial aspects, such as fiscal consolidation, capital expenditure, and the rural economy’s outlook.
Fiscal Strategy: Quality Over Quantity
Bhandari emphasizes the government’s shift towards focusing on the quality of spending rather than sheer volume. The overarching theme is fiscal discipline and consolidation. Expectations are that the fiscal deficit will align with the consolidation path, signaling a commitment to responsible financial management. The intention is to bring down overall expenditure while prioritizing capital expenditure over current expenditure.
Capital Expenditure: A Delicate Balance
Examining the budget 2024 from the lens of capital expenditure (CAPEX), Bhandari provides insights into the government’s approach. Despite fiscal consolidation, there’s a commitment to maintaining CAPEX thrust, albeit without acceleration. Bhandari notes the significance of state governments contributing significantly to CAPEX, driving construction and rural demand, with a potential 10.5% YoY increase in rupee terms.
Rural Economy: Resilience Amid Challenges
The discussion shifts to the rural economy, a critical aspect of India’s financial landscape. Bhandari acknowledges the challenges posed by an uneven monsoon but highlights the unexpected resilience driven by state governments’ CAPEX. The construction sector has become a crucial source of rural income, cushioning the impact of agricultural challenges.
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State Governments’ Role: Unveiling a Growth Driver
While central government CAPEX has been noteworthy, Bhandari sheds light on the pivotal role played by state governments. Their substantial increase in CAPEX, particularly in construction, has fueled growth, emphasizing the need to view CAPEX holistically as a combination of central and state efforts.
Key Areas to Watch in Budget 2024
As Budget 2024 approaches, Bhandari identifies key focal points:
- Fiscal Consolidation Path: Will the government adhere to its fiscal deficit targets, considering the pre-election year dynamics?
- Borrowing Patterns: Bond markets are attentive to the quantum of government borrowing. Any deviation from expectations may impact market sentiments.
- CAPEX Estimates: The budget estimate for CAPEX in FY24 was 10 trillion rupees. Observers are keen to know if there will be an increase for FY25.
- State Governments’ Initiatives: Monitoring state governments’ initiatives and their contribution to growth remains crucial.
Post-Budget Scenario: RBI’s Role
Bhandari anticipates a unique scenario post the budget 2024, where fiscal policy takes a step back, marking the first fiscal drag in years. However, she sees an opportunity for monetary policy to step forward. With inflation easing and fiscal policy tightening, she suggests the RBI may focus on liquidity measures to provide a soft landing, potentially easing by 40 to 50 basis points.
External Factors: FED’s Influence
Considering the global economic landscape, Bhandari underscores the importance of monitoring cues from the Federal Reserve. A potential rate cut, not expected before June, could impact markets and global economic dynamics.
Conclusion: Navigating Uncertainties
Budget 2024 unfolds against a backdrop of uncertainties, both domestic and global. Bhandari’s insights provide a nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities, signaling the need for a cautious yet optimistic approach to navigating the economic terrain.
Disclaimer: The content of this blog is based on an interview with Pranjul Bhandari, and the views expressed are her own. The information provided is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute financial advice or recommendations.