Why the foreigners are not impressed with Budget 2013

P-CHIDAMBARAMThe foreigners aren’t impressed with the budget presented by Finance Minister P Chidambaram yesterday. These include the rating agencies as well as investors who pour money into the Indian stock market.
As Ruchir Sharma, head of the Emerging Markets Equity team at Morgan Stanley Investment Management and the author of Breakout Nations told NDTV in a discussion yesterday: “On the fiscal side..a lot of the assumptions are being torn apart when people are analysing this budget.”
Government income is essentially categorised into two parts. Revenue receipts and capital receipts. Revenue receipts include regular forms of income which the government earns every year like income tax, corporate tax, excise duty, customs duty, service tax and so on.
Capital receipts include money earned through sale of shares in government-owned companies, telecom spectrum, etc. Capital receipts are essentially earned by selling things that the government owns.  Once something is sold it can’t be sold again and that is an important point to remember. Borrowing by the government, which is not an income, is also comes under capital receipts.
Revenue receipts for the year 2013-2014 are expected to be at Rs 10,56,331 crore. For the year 2012-2013 revenue receipts were budgeted to be at Rs 9,35,685 crore when the last budget was presented. This number has now been revised to Rs 8,71,828 crore. Hence, the government expects the revenue receipts to grow by 21.2 percent in 2013-2014. This projection has been made in an environment where the government is unlikely to meet its original revenue receipts target for the year. Also the revenue receipts this year will grow by 16 percent in comparison to last year.
So a 21 percent growth in revenue receipts is a fairly optimistic assumption to make. So if revenues collected are lower during the course of the year and the expenditure continues at the same rate, the fiscal deficit will be higher than it has been projected to be. Or expenditure will have to be cut, like it has been done this year. And that is not always a good sign.
Another point that this writer made yesterday was on the side of subsidies. For the year 2012-2013 subsidies were expected to be at Rs 1,90,015 crore. This has been revised to Rs 2,57,654 crore, which is almost 36 percent higher. This makes it very difficult to believe next year’s subsidy target of Rs 2,31,084 crore, especially when more subsidies/sops are likely to be announced during the course of the next financial year in view of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
As I said in the piece, the understating of subsidies has not been a one-off thing and has happened every year during the second term of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. So higher subsidies than budgeted might again mean a higher fiscal deficit or a cut in expenditure.
Amay Hattangadi and Swanand Kelkar of Morgan Stanley Investment Management, in a report titled The Art of Balancing, make an interesting point. They feel that the finance minister by projecting a fiscal deficit of 5.2 percent of GDP for this financial year and 4.8% of GDP might be giving an impression of fiscal prudence, but a closer look at the math reveals a different story.
As they write: “As trained accountants, we have learnt that sale of assets from the balance-sheet are one-off or non-recurring items. It is interesting that if we add back the estimates from sale of (telecom) spectrum and divestment of government companies (both non-recurring in our view), the ‘real’ fiscal deficit/GDP ratio for financial year 2014 shows no improvement over financial year 2013.”
The table below sourced from the Morgan Stanley report gives the complete story.

Table from Morgan Stanley
Table from Morgan Stanley

Once we take away capital receipts like divestment of shares and sale of telecom spectrum, which are essentially one-off sources of income from the equation, the real fiscal deficit  to GDP ratio comes in at a more realistic 5.6 percent of the GDP and not 4.8 percent or 5.2 percent that it has been projected to be. The point is that people aren’t buying the numbers put out in Chidambaram’s budget.
There is also very little acknowledgement of the mistakes that have made by the government over the past few years.
Ruchir Sharma, in his discussion on NDTV, put up a very interesting slide. The slide shows that India has consistently held rank 24-26 among 150 emerging market countries when it comes to economic growth over the last three decades. We thought we were growing at a very fast rate over the last few years, but so was everyone else. As Sharma put it: “The last decade we thought we had moved to a higher normal and it was all about us. Every single emerging market in the world boomed and the rising tide lifted all boats, including us.”

India's growth has remained consistent in the last three years
India’s growth has remained consistent in the last three decades

But now that we are not growing as fast as we were in the past, it is because of the slowing down of the global economy. As Chidambaram put it in his budget speech “We are not unaffected by what happens in the rest of the world and our economy too has slowed after 2010-11.”
Sharma pointed out the self-serving nature of this argument thus: “When the downturn happens it is about the global economy. When we do well it’s about us.” This is a disconnect that still persists, as is evident from Chidambaram’s statement.

India in the last four years was fed with artifuical fiscal stiumal, which led to high inflation
India in the last four years was fed with artificial fiscal stimulas, which led to high inflation

Another slide put up by Sharma makes for a very interesting reading. “Between 2008 and 2010 we implemented a massive stimulus, both fiscal and monetary, and that artificially inflated our growth rate to 13th in emerging market (as is evident from the slide). We were thrilled about it. It led to a massive increase in inflation and now this is payback time. Between 2010-2012, we fell to the 40th position,” said Sharma. So as more money was pumped into the economy, it chased the same number of goods and services, which led to higher prices or inflation.
So the massive spending by the government came back to haunt us. Inflation went through the roof. India’s rank among emerging markets when it came to inflation used to be around 60th. In the last few years it has fallen to the 118-119th position.

Chart:Morgan Stanley
As Sharma puts it: “This is the problem that India has today. India does not have an explicit inflation target. Most emerging markets and central banks work with explicit inflation targets. We have gotten away with it. I think the time is coming now for a more rules-based system. If we had an inflation target I doubt if we would have allowed inflation to increase at such a rapid pace”

Nations which have grown in the past at rapid rates have never had consistently high inflation. “And whenever inflation persisted over a period of time it always meant that the economy was headed for a major slowdown,” said Sharma. High inflation continues to be a major reason for worry in India.
Inflation in India has been a manifestation of a rapid increase in government spending. The total expenditure of the government in 2006-2007 was at Rs 5,81,637 crore. For the year 2013-2014, the total expenditure is expected to be at Rs 16,65,297 crore. The expenditure thus has nearly tripled (actually it’s gone up 2.9 times). During the same period the revenue receipts of the government have gone up only 2.5 times. The difference, as we all know, has been made up by borrowing leading to a burgeoning fiscal deficit. The next slide tells you how hopeless the situation really is.

Chart:Morgan Stanley
So India is really at the bottom when it comes to the fiscal deficit.

The point is very basic. We don’t earn all the money that we want to spend. As Chidambaram admitted to in the budget speech: “In 2011-12, the tax GDP ratio was 5.5 percent for direct taxes and 4.4 percent for indirect taxes.  These ratios are one of the lowest for any large developing country and will not garner adequate resources for inclusive and sustainable development.  I may recall that in 2007-08, the tax GDP ratio touched a peak of 11.9 percent.”
And this budget highlighted very little on how the government plans to increase its revenue receipts. In fact, Chidambaram even admitted that only 42,800 individuals admitted to having taxable incomes of greater than Rs 1 crore in India. This is a situation that needs to be set right. More Indians need to be made to pay income tax.
To conclude, let me say that the foreigners are worried and so should we.
The aritcle originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on March 1, 2013.
Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek

How Mamata is denting the rupee and bloating the oil bill

Vivek Kaul
A major reason for announcing the so called economic reforms that the Manmohan Singh UPA government did over the last weekend was to get India’s burgeoning oil subsidy bill which was expected to cross Rs 1,90,000 crore during the course of the year, under some control.
One move was the increase in diesel price by Rs 5 per litre and limiting the number of cooking gas cylinders that one could get at the subsidisedprice to six per year. This was a direct step to reduce the loss that the oil marketing companies (OMCs) face every time they sell diesel and cooking gas to the end consumer.
The other part of the reform game was about expectations management.  The announcement of reforms like allowing foreign direct investment in multi-brand foreign retailing or the airline sector was not expected to have any direct impact anytime soon. But what it was expected to do was shore up the image of the government and tell the world at large that this government is committed to economic reform.
Now how does that help in controlling the burgeoning oil bill?
Oil is sold internationally in dollars. The price of the Indian basket of crude oil is currently quoting at around $115.3 per barrel of oil (one barrel equals around 159litres).
Before the reforms were announced one dollar was worth around Rs 55.4(on September 13, 2012 i.e.). So if an Indian OMC wanted to buy one barrel of oil it had to convert Rs 6387.2 into $115.3 dollars, and pay for the oil.
After the reforms were announced the rupee started increasing in value against the dollar. By September 17, one dollar was worth around Rs 53.7. Now if an Indian OMC wanted to buy one barrel of oil it had to convert Rs 6191.6 into $115.3 to pay for the oil.
Hence, as the rupee increases in value against the dollar, the Indian OMCs pay less for the oil the buy internationally.  A major reason for the increase in value of the rupee was that on September 14 and September 17, the foreign institutional investors poured money into the stock market. They bought stocks worth Rs 5086 crore over the two day period. This meant dollars had to be sold and rupee had to be bought, thus increasing the demand for rupee and helping it gain in value against the dollar.
But this rupee rally was short lived and the dollar has gained some value against the rupee and is currently worth around Rs 54.
The question is why did this happen? Initially the market and the foreign investors bought the idea that the government was committed at ending the policy logjam and initiating various economic reforms. Hence the foreign investors invested money into the stock market, the stock market rallied and so did the rupee against the dollar.
But now the realisation is setting in that the reform process might be derailed even before it has been earnestly started. This was reflected in the amount of money the foreign investors brought into the stock market on September 18. The number was down to around Rs 1049.2 crore. In comparison they had invested more than Rs 5080 crore over the last two trading sessions.
Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, a key constituent of the UPA government, has decided to withdraw support to the government. At the same time it has asked the government to withdraw a major part of the reforms it has already initiated by Friday. If the government does that the Trinamool Congress will reconsider its decision.
How the political scenario plays out remains to be seen. But if the government does bow to Mamata’s diktats then the economic repercussions of that decision will be huge. The government had hoped that the losses on account of selling, diesel, kerosene and cooking gas, could have been brought down to Rs 1,67,000 crore, from the earlier Rs 1,92,000 crore by increasing the price of diesel and limiting the consumption of subsidised cooking gas.
If the government goes back on these moves, the oil subsidy bill will go back to attaining a monstrous size. Also, what the calculation of Rs 1,67,000 crore did not take into account was the fact that rupee would gain in value against the dollar. And that would have further brought down the oil subsidy bill. In fact HSBC which had earlier forecast Rs 57 to a dollar by December 2012, revised its forecast to Rs 52 to a dollar on Monday. But by then the Mamata factor hadn’t come into play.
If the government bows to Mamata, the rupee will definitely start losing value against the dollar again. This will happen because the foreign investors will stay away from both the stock market as well as direct investment. In fact, the foreign direct investment during the period of April to June 2012 has been disastrous. It has fallen by 67% to $4.41billion in comparison to $13.44billion, during the same period in 2011. If the government goes back on the few reforms that it unleashed over the last weekend, foreign direct investment is likely to remain low.
One factor that can change things for India is the if the price of crude oil were to fall. But that looks unlikely. The immediate reason is the tension in the Middle East and the threat of war between Iran and Israel. Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, recently said that the United States would not set any deadline for the ongoing negotiations with Iran. This hasn’t gone down terribly well with Israel. Reacting to this Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel said “the world tells Israel, wait, there’s still time, and I say, ‘Wait for what, wait until when? Those in the international community who refuse to put a red line before Iran don’t have the moral right to place a red light before Israel.” (Source: www.oilprice.com)
Iran does not recognise Israel as a nation. This has led to countries buying up more oil than they need and building stocks to take care of this geopolitical risk.In the recent period, since the start of 2012, the increase in stocks has been substantial, i.e. 2 to 3 million barrels per day. These are probably precautionary stocks linked to geopolitical risks,” writes Patrick Artus of Flash Economics in a recent report titled Why is the oil price not falling?
At the same time the United States is pushing nations across the world to not source their oil from Iran, which is the second largest producer of oil within the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec). This includes India as well.
With the rupee losing value against the dollar and the oil price remaining high the oil subsidy bill is likely to continue to remain high. And this means the trade deficit (the difference between exports and imports) is likely to remain high. The exports for the period between April and July 2012, stood at $97.64billion. The imports on the other hand were at $153.2billion. Of this, $53.81billion was spent on oil imports. If we take oil imports out of the equation the difference between India’s exports and imports is very low.
Now what does this impact the value of the rupee against the dollar? An exporter gets paid in dollars. When he brings those dollars back into the country he has to convert them into rupees. This means he has to buy rupees and sell dollars. This helps shore up the value of the rupee as the demand for rupee goes up.
In case of an importer the things work exactly the opposite way. An importer has to pay for the imports in terms of dollars. To do this, he has to buy dollars by paying in rupees. This increases the demand for the dollar and pushes up its value against the rupee.
As we see the difference between imports and exports for the first four months of the year has been around $55billion. This means that the demand for the dollar has been greater than the demand for the rupee.
One way to fill this gap would be if foreign investors would bring in money into the stock market as well as for direct investment. They would have had to convert the dollars they want to invest into rupees and that would have increased the demand for the rupee.
The foreign institutional investors have brought in around $3.86billion (at the current rate of $1 equals Rs 54) since the beginning of the year.  The foreign direct investment for the first three months of the year has been at $4.41 billion.
So what this tells us that there is a huge gap between the demand for dollars and the supply of dollars. And precisely because of this the dollar has gained in value against the rupee. On April 2, 2012, at the beginning of the financial year, one dollar was worth around Rs 50.8. Now it’s worth Rs 54.
This situation is likely to continue. And I wouldn’t be surprised if rupee goes back to its earlier levels of Rs 56 to a dollar in the days to come. It might even cross those levels, if the government does bow to the diktats of Mamata.
This would mean that India would have to pay more for the oil that it buys in dollars. This in turn will push up the demand for dollars leading to a further fall in the value of the rupee against the dollar.
Since the government forces the OMCs to sell diesel, kerosene and cooking gas much below their cost to consumers, the losses will continue to mount. The current losses have been projected to be at Rs 1,67,000 crore. I won’t be surprised if they cross Rs 2,00,000 crore. The government has to compensate the OMCs for these losses in order to ensure that they don’t go bankrupt.
This also means that the government will cross its fiscal deficit target of Rs 5,13,590 crore. The fiscal deficit, which is the difference between what the government earns and what it spends, might well be on its way to touch Rs 7,00,000 crore or 7% of GDP. (For a detailed exposition of this argument click here). And that will be a disastrous situation to be in. Interest rates will continue to remain high. And so will inflation. To conclude, the traffic in Mumbai before the Ganesh Chaturthi festival gets really bad. Any five people can get together while taking the Ganesh statue to their homes, put on a loudspeaker, start dancing on the road and thus delay the entire traffic on the road for hours.  Indian politics is getting more and more like that.
Reforms, like the traffic, may have to wait. Mamata’s revolt is single-handedly worsening the oil bill, thanks, in part, to the rupee’s worsening fortunes. By not raising prices now, the subsidy bill bloat further, and in due course we will be truly in the soup.
The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on September 20, 2012. http://www.firstpost.com/economy/how-mamata-is-denting-the-rupee-and-bloating-the-oil-bill-461919.html
Vivek Kaul is a writer and can be reached at [email protected]