The first quarter of the 2023-24 financial year has brought startling news as India’s fiscal deficit experienced a substantial surge, surpassing a third of the annual target. The fiscal deficit, an essential gauge of the disparity between government expenditures and revenue, is a pivotal indicator of the government’s borrowing needs and fiscal health.
As of the close of July, the fiscal deficit in absolute terms amounted to a staggering Rs 6.06 lakh crore, as per data sourced from the Controller General of Accounts (CGA). This figure represents a remarkable increase compared to the corresponding period in the previous financial year, when the fiscal deficit stood at 20.5% of the Budget Estimates (BE).
In the Union Budget for the fiscal year 2023-24, the government had set its sights on reducing the fiscal deficit to 5.9% of the gross domestic product (GDP), signaling its commitment to prudent fiscal management. In the prior financial year (2022-23), the fiscal deficit had reached 6.4% of the GDP, slightly below the initial estimate of 6.71%.
During the period spanning from April to July in the current fiscal year, the net tax revenue amounted to Rs 5.83 lakh crore, constituting 25% of the BE. This marks a decrease compared to the corresponding period in the preceding year when net tax revenue collection had reached 34.4% by the end of July 2022, indicating potential challenges in revenue generation.
The central government’s total expenditure in the first four months of the financial year reached Rs 13.81 lakh crore, equivalent to 30.7% of the BE. In contrast, during the same period in the previous year, expenditures had reached 28.6% of the BE, reflecting increased government spending. Of the total expenditure, Rs 10.64 lakh crore was allocated to the revenue account, while Rs 3.17 lakh crore was earmarked for the capital account.
These developments in the fiscal landscape raise questions and concerns about India’s fiscal management and the strategies required to manage borrowing needs in the coming months. Economists and policymakers will closely monitor these trends as they hold significant implications for India’s economic trajectory in the near term.