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Experts on Economic Survey 2018: GDP may bounce back to 7-7.5% next year, but there are hurdles on the way



Mumbai: The economy should grow between 7 percent and 7.5 percent in the fiscal year starting in April with exports and private investment set to rebound, the country’s top finance ministry economist said in a report presented on Monday.

The annual survey was released ahead of the government’s annual Budget statement, due to be presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday.

The government’s Economic Survey, presented to Parliament on Monday, went on to say that though the plan has been to reduce the fiscal deficit from an estimated 3.2 percent this year to 3.0 percent in 2018/19, a pause in the move toward a lower deficit could be merited in order to give the economy momentum.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationalist government is gearing up for a general elections in 2019, and speaking to reporters after the survey’s release, the finance ministry’s chief economic adviser, Arvind Subramanian, alluded to political considerations for possibly letting the deficit target slip.

“The cycle calls for ambitious consolidation but the political cycle calls for maybe more modest consolidation so it has to be a balance between the two,” Arvind Subramaniam said.

Here is what experts said about the Economic Survey 2018 released on Monday:

Abheek Barua, Chief Economist, HDFC Bank

The (7-7.5 percent GDP) forecast builds in some risks to growth, particularly the oil price risk. If oil prices stay firm or rise from these levels, we would look at the 7 percent mark. It’s a conservative and credible band. There could be a potential upside from here if oil prices moderate quite substantially and you see a pickup in domestic demand components. I think it will be a fiscally responsible Budget. There is enormous emphasis that the govt is putting on committing to fiscal consolidation. I think we will get to 3 or 3.1 percent for fiscal 2019 (in terms of fiscal deficit), but on the whole we don’t know what will happen to states as a lot of state spending hasn’t been fully financed.”

Gaurav Dua, Research Head, Sharekhan

The 7–7.5 percent estimated growth range has already been predicted, including from the IMF. One of the key elements to look out for is net exports. There has been a surge in imports, and if it continues it could drag the overall growth. We believe that government will go back to the fiscal consolidation so the target for next year will be close to 3.2 percent (of GDP). This was also the target for this year and even though we are unlikely to achieve it this time, it is a realistic target for 2018/19 ”

Suvodeep Rakshit, senior economist, Kotak Institutional Equities

GDP growth might be at the lower end of the (7-7.5 pct) range, but broadly the estimates are in line with our expectations. We were looking at a GVA (gross value added) growth of around 7-7.1 percent which means a GDP growth of roughly around 7.3 percent. We are expecting a bit of cyclical recovery in FY19. The government will remain on the fiscal consolidation path. My sense is that they will show somewhere around 3.2 percent fiscal deficit to GDP (for 2018/19). Even as it does so, the government will likely focus on rural and urban infrastructure, housing, agriculture as well as bit on the capital expenditure front with a judicious mix of budgetary and extra budgetary expenditure.

Devendra Kumar Pant, chief economist and senior director (public finance), India Ratings & Research

Based on present situation, growth in FY19 is likely to be around lower end of the range (7-7.5 pct). However, evolving domestic and global situations may push it in any direction. The government is expected to follow a path of fiscal consolidation in FY19, and FY19 central government fiscal deficit could be 3.2 percent of GDP, which will be higher than the fiscal consolidation roadmap presented in medium term fiscal policy with FY18 Union Budget. There is high probability of increased allocation towards rural areas, infrastructure.

Abhishek Goenka, Leader Corporate & International Tax, PwC India

Economic Survey 2017-18 recognizes the need to address the ever-growing tax litigation in India. With tax department being the largest litigator with low success rate, Government may be expected to introduce measures to curb frivolous litigation and promote tax certainty.  Economic Survey 2017-18 reports noteworthy increase of 1.8 million income tax filers post demonetization. However, the inertia of tax-GDP ratio continues as additional taxpayers’ reported income was close to the exemption threshold and did not contribute significantly to the revenue coffers.”

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Aditi Nayar, principal economist, ICRA

With the Economic Survey hinting at a slippage relative to the previously announced fiscal deficit targets, G-sec yields unsurprisingly extended the hardening trend seen over the recent weeks, rising by nearly 15 bps during the day. We expect G-sec yields to remain volatile in the run up to the Union Budget. Looking ahead, the fiscal deficit targeted in the upcoming Budget and the reaction of the Monetary Policy Committee in its review next week to the spike in the CPI inflation will drive the outlook for the repo rate as well as G-sec yields.

Vikas Vasal, Partner, Grant Thornton India LLP

On the tax front, the Economy Survey highlights that demonetisation, GST and other measures have successfully added more tax payers, which should help in improving the Tax to GDP ratio in near future. Also, another important aspect is that there is a dire need to cut down on the unnecessary litigation and provide certainty to the investors. This would further boost the investment & business sentiment in the country.

Manish Agarwal, Leader – Infrastructure, PwC India

The growth in manufacturing is a big positive. Credit off-take, growth in cement, steel etc point to pick up in capacity creation also. As the pace picks up, the industrial corridors could see faster development.

Angel Broking

The Economic Survey guided a full year GDP growth of 6.75 percent for 2017-18, implying a growth of over 7 percent in the second half of the current fiscal. The Survey has also projected a full year GDP growth in the range of 7-7.5 percent for the next fiscal year 2018-19. Interestingly, a revival in exports and private investment is expected to take the GDP growth higher next year. The Survey has rightly noted the need to increase the translation of savings into investments as it is the latter that has been instrumental in triggering growth in GDP.

On the positive side, the Survey noted that the base of indirect taxation and the direct taxation had substantially expanded as an outcome of demonetization, digitization and the implementation of GST. However, the Survey has also red-flagged the risk of higher inflation and higher oil prices in the coming year. On the subject of affirmative taxation, the Survey also underscored the positive role played by the Rebate of State Levies in increasing the exports of readymade garments. That is indicative of more such initiatives to boost exports. The Survey has cautioned that with growth picking up in the next year, inflation may also move higher. That also indirectly cautions the equity markets about the limited prospects of further rate cuts from here on. Effectively, the Survey underscores a likely shift in the budget focus to a greater reliance on fiscal policy.

Arvind Subramanian, chief economic advisor. PIB image

Arvind Subramanian, chief economic advisor. PIB image

Girish Vanvari, National Head of Tax, KPMG in India

In the backdrop of a changing global economic scenario, stabilising GST, rising crude prices, the projected GDP growth of 7 to 7.5 percent for 2018-19 looks promising and puts India as the highest significant growth economy in the world next year. Further the emphasis on the need for an investment led inclusive growth, timely dispute resolution (including tax litigation) as the focus areas, the Survey hits the right note. The findings/suggestions if implemented successfully should lead to revival of the jobs, consumption cycle and improvement of the investor sentiment. It will be interesting to note how the government responds to the popular expectations of lower tax rates at individual and corporate tax levels especially in the light of an increasing tax base post GST and demonetization.

 Ranen Banerjee, Partner and Leader – Public Finance and Economics, PwC India

The growth expectation in the next fiscal has been pegged at 7-7.5 percent. There is, therefore, cautiousness on the upsides expected from GST on the economy in the next fiscal too. There has been a lot of stress on the agriculture sector and job creation has been a challenge given the global backlash and technological advancements. We therefore expect a lot of emphasis in the budget on the farm sector as well as job intensive sectors. The survey has hinted at a slower fiscal consolidation in a pre-election year. The fiscal deficit therefore is expected to be in line with the previous year without any further slippage and some token decrease optimistically.

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Shobana Kamineni, President, CII

The Survey offers insightful, far-reaching and pragmatic ideas designed to stimulate a creative debate on the state of the economy and the way forward. It maintains that the economy has turned the corner with the GDP set to climb to and grow in the range of 7-7.5 percent in the coming year powered by far-reaching reforms. As the Survey puts it, ‘transformative reforms such as the implementation of GST, resolution of the twin balance sheet problem through the bankruptcy code, the recapitalisation package, liberalisation of FDI and policy for export uplift’ would help India to emerge as the fastest growing economy in coming times.

Highlighting ten new facts on the economy, the Survey points to the increase in direct and indirect tax payers due to demonetisation and greater than expected rise in the non-agriculture payroll. This in turn reaffirms that our macro-economic fundamentals remain strong. CII also agrees with the views that raising investment is more important than augmenting savings at this juncture and excessive tax litigation should be avoided. In its commentary on the economy, the Economic Survey rightly provides an agrarian focus and advocates market reforms such as consolidation of land holdings, farm mechanisation, R&D, among others to ensure remunerative prices for farmers. Here CII has suggested that an empowered group of state agricultural ministers may be created to take forward reforms in the agriculture sector.

 D K. Srivastava, Economist & Chief Policy Advisor, EY India.

Driven by strong investment and export growth, the Economic Survey estimates a real growth of 7.5% in 2HFY18, maintaining this momentum in FY19 with growth in the range of 7 percent-7.5 percent and touching the potential of 8% in the medium term. These estimates broadly corroborate with the corresponding estimates by the IMF and the World Bank. With the realization of such robust growth rates, India is poised to re-emerge as the global growth leader.

Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, CII

The Survey is a detailed, thoughtful and insightful document that is strong on data and with some very interesting facts and figures as well as charts. CII commends the pragmatic and extensive document that effectively captures the achievements and challenges of the economy.  It the Survey provides new ideas for building a positive momentum for growth in the coming year and for faster growth thereafter. The Survey delineates a long- term vision for powering the emergence of a New India which is both transformative and socially inclusive”, he added.

The very encouraging Big data analysis in the Economic Survey points to a healthy improvement in tax coverage and collection on the direct and indirect side. This can be a game changer as this continues to increase in the coming years.

The Survey has rightly alluded that the chief areas of policy focus in the medium term are employment, especially for women; educated and healthy labour force; and raising farm productivity. We expect that the Budget will address some of these issues. CII has focused on 4 key areas in its pre- budget recommendations which are along the same lines and adds reviving private investments.”

Sandeep Chilana, Partner, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas

The GST-related data that has become available for the first time provides interesting insights. 50% increase in indirect taxpayers, majority being voluntary registrations, speaks volume on acceptance of GST in informal sector. It however remains to be seen if the 1.7 million new registrants who were below the Rs 20 lakh threshold (and hence not obliged to register) chose to do so voluntarily or they have been under-reporting the turnovers. Also, new data pointing at correlation between international exports by a State and its standard of living provides new insights into economic performance of States.

Ajay Kakra, Director & Leader – Food and Agriculture, PwC India

The small tool industry needs to be boosted for greater penetration of farm mechanisation in the agricultural sector. Efforts should be made for identification and commercialisation of low cost technologies to motivate farmers and achieve higher adoption rates. Further, technology incubators needs to be created for perfecting and commercialisation of technologies in the agricultural sector.

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