Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is likely to stay conservative about the nominal gross domestic product (GDP) growth and set it at 9.5-10 percent in the FY21 budget as the time for ‘picking optimistic target’ experiments are over, say sources.
“This year, there will be a realistic assessment of the nominal GDP,” said a source.
Revenue estimates and fiscal deficit targets are also likely to be circumspect as not to face a situation of failing to meet them as the Finance Ministry is already fighting two perceptional issues — transparency in disclosing budget data, and not to set ambitious tax revenue and fiscal deficit targets.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), which is closely associated the budget — even at the micro-level — has told North Block not to set over-ambitious tax and fiscal deficit targets.
Over-estimation of the nominal growth rate in an attempt to paint a healthy picture of the economy to investors, market and rating agencies — as was partly done last year — gives tax officials ambitious targets to meet through tax demands and raids, causing inconvenience to investors and individuals.
The targets for direct taxes, like income tax and corporate tax, and indirect taxes, such as the goods and services tax (GST), depending on the nominal GDP.
Also, to avoid an embarrassment due to ‘clerical’ errors, North Block and PMO officials are checking broad economic statistics of budgetary documents minutely.
The government had to face a lot of criticisms as the FY20 budget had two nominal GDP growth figures. While Sitharaman gave out 12 percent nominal growth number, estimating the GDP at current prices at Rs 211 lakh crore, the “medium-term fiscal policy cum fiscal policy strategy statement”, presented with the budget, set the nominal GDP growth at 11 per cent.
“The nominal GDP for 2019-20 is expected to be Rs 2,11,00,607 crore, which indicates a growth of 11 percent over the previous year,” it said. The advance estimate has now projected the nominal GDP growth at 7.5 percent for FY20.
Since the nominal GDP figures are likely to be low, the tax collections target could be conservative, said people associated with developments.
With the economy still facing a slowdown, the first estimates put the real GDP growth at 5 percent for FY20. This macro-economic data is used for preparing budget estimates for the next financial year.
Sitharaman will present the budget for 2020-21 on February 1.