Disappointing Union Budget 2022-23
Blog written by: B. Yerram Raju
Usually, the Economic Survey presented a day before the Union Budget is expected to lay the foundation for a policy direction. It acknowledges the challenging times for policymaking – this time against the backdrop of the pandemic impact, especially on the vulnerable sections, fall in consumption in the medium term and serious supply-side disruptions. There are some half-truths as well when it said that government expenditure has pushed consumption by 7% in 2021-22. Even credit flow was tepid till the end of the second quarter of this fiscal.
The Union government’s debt crossed 59.3% of GDP from 49.1% a year ago. Recovery of the economy is unlikely to contain a fiscal deficit as the major item of investment is through public debt and less through tax revenue. The Finance Minister’s Budget speech has little substance to combat either inflation or inclusivity. It also seemed to ignore several suggestions from the pre-Budget meetings.
Roads, highways, and railways are dependent on States for making available the land but the States have not been taken into confidence and several State-led projects were not supported by the Union government
The Budget has laid, of course, a foundation for large investments in infrastructure to flow under public-private partnership. But roads, highways and railways are dependent on States for making available the land, and the States have not been taken into confidence. Several State-led projects were not supported by the Union government during the year. The same is the case with the integration of rivers —Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery.
The Budget disappoints on inclusive development and climate change. Waste management has no incentive and de-carbonisation too was little talked about. Infrastructure development leads only to temporary employment and in the context of migratory unemployment that saw people dying on railway platforms and highways, literally starving during the first Covid-19 lockdown, and their returning to work, there are no clues. Inflation is least talked about.
The increase in GST (Goods and Services Tax) on which there was wide applause is more on account of inflation than due to the increase in productivity going by the drop in IIP. There was no mention of the revival of manufacturing NPAs in Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan though the extension of the guarantee mechanism under CGTMSE (Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises) modification and Sovereign Bond replacing the guarantee for tender participation in public sector markets are most welcome for MSMEs. It is the medium enterprises that got the best of the bargain. The agriculture sector received an apologetic approach — a rise in MSP for wheat and rice accompanied by a fall in subsidy for fertilizers by Rs 35,000 crore.
Gujarat is Nation!
No wonder the Chief Minister of Telangana in a deservedly hard-hitting address, highlighted the thinking and approach of the Union government on several issues, and particularly, those relating to Telangana. For eight years, ie, since the inception of the State, Rs 42,000 crore is all that was given under Central schemes. This is far below the disbursements made by the State under the Rythu Bandhu scheme alone. Jal Shakti, the much-touted scheme of the Union government, had an allocation of just Rs 60,000 crore while Telangana spent Rs 40,000 crore on Mission Kakatiya and Mission Bhagiratha. The country holds 65,000 TMC of water with just around 35,000 TMC utilised. The water policy of the nation is in a shambles.
When the International Arbitration Centre was officially launched at Hyderabad and the State government has allotted enough space for it, it is strange that the Budget announced it as a gift to the GIFT city of Gujarat!
Uniform GST rate for toys, a policy framework for the toy industry and targeting at least 1% of the market share from China would mean a Rs 10,000-crore opportunity for the MSEs. The Budget has done little
Bihar Special Package, Gujarat Bullet Train, Karnataka Metro, Bundelkhand Defence Corridor had space but nothing for Telangana. Gujarat is the only State that received a mention in the allocations to the States as if Gujarat alone represents the nation.
Further, the Budget should usually consider a few recommendations of statutory bodies like the Finance Commissions and the NITI Aayog. This Budget quietly slipped the recommended allocations to Telangana both under the 14th and 15th Finance Commissions depriving the legitimate share of the State in the Union Budget.
Even under the AP State Reorganization Act, 2013, allocations for important projects like IIM, IIT, IT corridor, Warangal-Hyderabad industrial corridor are forgotten despite repeated representations from the State. This squint-eyed approach of the Union government makes one wonder whether we are under a federal democracy or a unitary rule. This is the reason for K Chandrashekhar Rao calling for rewriting the Indian Constitution, which has seen more than 120 amendments.
The International Arbitration Centre was officially launched at Hyderabad but it is strange that the Budget announced it as a gift to the GIFT city of Gujarat!
Devils that lie in details:
The Budget legitimised the illegal cryptocurrency that has the potential for killing the monetary stability of the large population by taxing 30% of those assets. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said a “digital rupee using blockchain and other technologies” will be issued by the Reserve Bank of India in 2022-23. “It will also lead to a more efficient and cheaper currency management system.”
The RBI coming up with digital currency would add fuel to the fire, as it may help only the fintechs. This could lead to financial instability in the days to come. Digital literacy is at a 32% level and general literacy at more than 45%. There is a cyber-fraud every day draining the hard-earned savings of lakhs of persons hurting their livelihoods as well.
There has been no increase in the allocation for the education sector. The National Education Policy demands at least 4-5% of allocation for the education sector but it ended up with less than 2%. The pandemic led to several uncertainties in education — a mix of institutional and digital education — and the complicity of some digital institutions awarding MBA degree that has been rightly discredited by the AICTE.
The health sector, despite all encomiums in her speech for the remarkable speed and efficiency in delivery of vaccines and improvements in health infrastructure during the year, did not receive even 6% allocation.
Employment had a serious setback due to the pandemic. Employment expectations on account of infrastructure projects under the PPP model will be project-driven and not stability and security for the persons employed. Fifty lakh persons to be employed in such projects and services sector would be a mythical figure. The Budget is hollow here.
Takers for Tourism
Tourism and hospitality sectors received a big-ticket. But all of it would depend on the people’s confidence in safe travel and safe food. Supply chains for this sector are in serious problems. The allocations would give a psychological boost for the sectors and would not materially alter their fortunes at least for six months after the Omicron settles down without any further variants hitting the economies around the globe.
Globally, commodity markets indicate a slump and have all portends of inflation.
Budget quietly slips the recommended allocations to Telangana both under the 14th and 15th Finance Commissions depriving the legitimate share of the State in the Union Budget
The MSME Sector has some things to cheer about but much to mourn. Extension of ECLGS (Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme) till March 2023 is welcome but they expect that the banks should extend the facilities to the most beleaguered micro and small manufacturing enterprises. Rs 6,000 crore over the next five years for a rating tool for the sector creates more fears as 98% of enterprises are proprietary and partnerships (family concerns).
The organic databases of G to C, B to B, and B to C would perform as portals with interlinkage of Udhyam, e-Shram, National Career Service (NCS) and Aatamanirbhar Skilled Employee Employer Mapping (ASEEM) portals, giving data a big push. There is no indication whether data itself would provide security instead of collaterals or guarantees sought by banks. The proposal to initiate a completely paperless, end-to-end online e-Bill System in all central ministries will greatly help MSME suppliers as it is to reduce delays in payments and make the process transparent. It is, however, doubtful whether this step would boost skilling, re-skilling, up-skilling and promote new enterprises because of the present levels of digitisation of the MSEs.
Micro and small manufacturers or service providers are sub-contractors and the FM’s announcement of substituting guarantees demanded by the governments and PSUs by a surety bond at the hands of insurance companies could be saving the working capital gap. It is important to see the fine print here and that the subcontractors get their due share.
A fund with blended capital raised under co-investment model facilitated through Nabard to finance startups in agriculture and rural enterprises for farm produce value chain is proposed. Startups will be promoted for Drone Shakti. It will be the large among the SMEs that may take advantage of this scheme. It also depends upon the way the co-investment model is structured by Nabard.
We have not seen much traction of PE/VC investments in manufacturing MSEs and hope that the Expert Committee proposed would provide sufficient comfort for the sector’s access to these funds. Extension of tax redemption by one more year for startups beyond the existing three years would help many service sector enterprises.
Micro and small manufacturing enterprises were the worst hit during the pandemic and many have not been able to revive. While speaking about Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, the FM chose to ignore the failure of the subordinate debt scheme meant to revive the NPAs as all banks have woven a wet cloth around it. The manufacturing sector, due to severe supply chain disruptions, has grown only by a modest 1.3% (IIP).
MSEs have sought the lowest cost of capital of which there was no mention in the Budget. Uniform GST rate for toys, a policy framework for the toy industry and targeting at least one per cent of the market share from China would mean a Rs 10,000 crore opportunity for the MSEs. The sector has been demanding cash-flow-based working capital assessment from the banks as recommended by UK Sinha Committee on which there was no word.
The Budget has done little for pushing consumer demand, particularly in the context of McKinsey estimate of a fall in the retail grocery market by 20% in the next five years.
If GST has peaked to Rs 1.40 lakh crore, it is because of inflation and not because of high buoyancy in production and productivity of the industry. Industry is struggling to stay afloat
Doing Business will be Difficult
To establish a globally competitive business environment for certain domestic companies, a concessional tax regime of 15% was introduced by the government for newly incorporated domestic manufacturing companies. The FM extended the last date for commencement of manufacturing or production under section 115BAB by one year, ie, from March 31, 2023, to March 31, 2024.
The ‘One Station One Product’ concept is laudable as a souvenir shop will help generate business and spread awareness about local art and craft.
Although the Budget 2022-23 proposes several initiatives for ‘Ease of Doing Business’, including modernisation of building byelaws, Unique Land Parcel Identification Number for IT-based management of land records, Accelerated Corporate Exit and introduction of new ‘Updated return’ — a provision to file an Updated Return on payment of additional tax, the cost of doing business is bound to go up and this will dampen the initiative.
The country needs judicial reforms and several regulatory reforms to make us highly competitive. The Budget was silent on these. The issue of high Customs duties and non-tariff barriers on basic raw material, other than steel, such as copper, aluminum, and polymers also remain largely unaddressed.
Poor, earning less than USD 1.90 a day as per purchasing power parity of 2011, have nothing to cheer. The Union government seems to be for the rich, of the rich, and by the rich. While rich by itself is no evil as everyone would like to be one, the road to such reach should be laid by governments. Some old tools, like more investment through PPP and disinvestment, to ensure a level playing field have been dusted off to provide the companies some cheer. The Budget is deceptive in approach and has less prospects of success.
(This blog is written by B Yerram Raju he is an Economist and Risk Management Specialist)
Disclaimer: His blogs are only subject oriented - Finance, agriculture, MSMEs, Cooperation, Corporate Governance etc. Do not relate to any comments on caste, religion, sex etc.