Union Budget 2023-24
This is the final full budget before the general elections in April-May next year I Photo: iStock

Budget may cap fiscal deficit at 5.8% for FY24, Centre's borrowings likely to rise

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As the Union Budget could peg a lower-than-expected fiscal deficit for the Centre at 5.8 per cent of GDP, the states and the Centre are looking to the Budget for higher market borrowings to the tune of Rs 2.3 lakh crore next fiscal, a report says.

ICRA ratings anticipates higher redemptions will lead to gross market borrowings of the Centre to rise to Rs 14.8 lakh crore and of the states to jump by Rs 1.6 lakh crore to Rs 9.6 lakh crore, taking the combined borrowings (of the Centre and the states) to Rs 24.4 lakh crore in FY2024, up by 2.3 lakh crore from FY23 combined.

In FY23, the Centre’s gross borrowings are budgeted at Rs 14.1 lakh crore and of the states at Rs 8 lakh crore, or a combined borrowing of Rs 22.1 lakh crore, according to the agency. The agency also expects the Centre to peg its FY24 fiscal deficit at 5.8 per cent of the GDP, a moderation from 6.4 per cent projected for FY23.

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Global slowdown

According to Aditi Nayar, the chief economist and the head of research and outreach at the agency, with a global growth slowdown looming large, Budget 2024 needs to focus on sustaining the domestic growth momentum, while at the same time demonstrating a continued commitment towards fiscal consolidation in addition to limiting market borrowings.

She also expects the forthcoming budget to enhance the Centre’s capex to Rs 8.5-9 lakh crore and target a lower fiscal deficit of 5.8 per cent of GDP, aided by lower subsidies. Despite this, higher redemptions will enlarge the Centre’s gross market borrowings to Rs 14.8 lakh crore in FY24 from Rs 14.1 lakh crore in FY23.

The same applies to the states as well and their gross market borrowings may jump by Rs 1.6 lakh crore to Rs 9.6 lakh crore, from Rs 8 lakh crore budgeted for FY23. However, states have not been so far borrowing as intimated to the Reserve Bank due to better revenue and higher Central payouts. Overall their borrowing is lower than last years by almost 15 per cent so far this fiscal.

Revenue deficit to fall?

She expects the revenue deficit to fall to Rs 9.5 lakh crore in FY24 from Rs 10.5 lakh crore in FY23 for the Centre, while the fiscal deficit may fall only mildly to Rs 17.3 lakh crore from Rs 17.5 lakh crore led by higher capex. Nevertheless, as a proportion of GDP, the fiscal deficit is expected to ease to 5.8 per cent in FY24 from 6.4 per cent projected for this fiscal.

She expects the poll-bound government to budget for double-digit growth in capital expenditure at Rs 8.5-9 lakh crore in  FY24, up from Rs 7.5 lakh crore in FY23. On the other hand, revenue spending is expected to rise by a relatively muted 3 per cent, due to the likely lower food and fertiliser subsidies.

Of the projected higher borrowings next fiscal, net borrowing of the Centre is likely to fall to  Rs 10.4 lakh crore in FY24 from Rs 10.9 lakh crore this fiscal, as bonds worth Rs 3.1 lakh crore are up for redemption this fiscal, which may rise to Rs 4.4 lakh crore next, and increase the gross borrowings by Rs 0.7 lakh crore to Rs 14.8 lakh crore.

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States’ borrowing

On the other hand, the combined net borrowings of the states may rise by Rs 1.2 lakh crore to Rs 6.8 lakh crore in FY24 from the budgeted Rs 5.6 lakh crore for this fiscal. Their redemptions will rise from the budgeted Rs 2.4 lakh crore this fiscal to Rs 2.9 lakh crore next fiscal.

This will have the combined net borrowings rising to Rs 16.5 lakh crore from this fiscal to Rs 17.2 lakh crore next fiscal, according to her.

Given the robust direct tax and GST collections, Nayar also expects net tax receipts to overshoot the budgeted amount by a healthy Rs 2.1 lakh crore in FY23. Direct tax mop-up grew 24.58 per cent to Rs 14.71 lakh crore till January 10, which is more than 86 per cent of the budget estimate.

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This, combined with expenditure savings to the tune of Rs 1 lakh crore is expected to partly offset the net cash outgoes announced in the first supplementary demand for grants and the shortfall in non-tax revenue and disinvestment receipts.

As a result, she expects the fiscal deficit to print in at Rs 17.5 lakh crore in FY23, exceeding the budgeted amount of Rs 16.6 lakh crore; but a larger-than-estimated GDP will allow the gap to remain at the budgeted target of 6.4 per cent of GDP.

Nayar expects the government to net borrow Rs 10.4 lakh crore in FY24, down from Rs 10.9 lakh crore in FY23. But higher redemptions will have the gross market borrowings to rise to Rs 14.8 lakh crore from Rs 14.1 lakh crore.

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States’ gross borrowings, which have been compressed in FY23 for a variety of reasons, are likely to touch Rs 9.6 lakh crore in the coming fiscal and assuming that 75 per cent of this is funded by debt, their net borrowing will touch Rs 6.8 lakh crore.

G-sec yield may go up

Accordingly, she estimates the total Central and state net borrowings to rise to Rs 17.2 lakh crore in FY24 from Rs 16.5 lakh crore in FY23. This is likely to push up the 10-year G-sec yield to 7.4-7.75 per cent after the presentation of the Budget, she said.

Nayar estimates gross tax revenue in FY24 at Rs 34 lakh crore, a 9.4 per cent expansion over the projected level for FY23, with growth in direct taxes likely to outpace that of indirect taxes, which is likely to be roiled by poor customs duty collections and reversion of excise duty on auto fuels to pre-pandemic levels.

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The share of interest payments in total expenditure will remain elevated at 24-25 per cent, owing to a large increase in the debt outstanding, underscoring the need to limit borrowings, going ahead, Nayar said.

(With Agency inputs)

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