Mr Jaitley's moment to keep the promises

Most economists believe that there could be no better time to push through the reform agenda than now

Sourav Majumdar
Published: Feb 20, 2015 06:30:53 AM IST
Updated: Feb 18, 2015 12:53:36 PM IST

Nine months into the Narendra Modi government, the debate on the economy is shifting from what needs to be done to bring India back to a sustainable growth path to when things will get moving. This is a significant shift. From unbridled optimism immediately before and after the new government took charge in May 2014, the talk in business circles has now shifted to how soon the government can get into action mode.

Mr Jaitley's moment to keep the promises

There is unanimity on a few things: One, most corporate leaders and economists believe that there could be no better time to push through the reform agenda than now, given that the macroeconomic scenario has largely turned favourable, with inflation showing signs of coming under control, oil prices declining and growth in some of the more significant global economies showing signs of serious slowdown. Two, the consensus is that having got into the groove now, Budget 2015 will be one of the most significant policy statements made in recent times, laying down the Modi government’s economic statement of intent and action. In fact, panellists at the Forbes India CEO Dialogues pre-Budget discussion in Delhi went so far as to call Budget 2015 the most significant since the Manmohan Singh budget of 1991.

As some of the country’s tallest business leaders and economic thinkers tell us in this pre-budget special issue, the task before Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is cut out. However, Mr Jaitley also faces a number of challenges, the primary one being that of balancing the need for pushing through public investments for growth with the objective of fiscal consolidation.

Where will Mr Jaitley find the money to spur investments if he is to continue with the job of keeping the fiscal deficit in check and bring it down to the promised 3.6 percent in 2015-16? What will be the repercussions if he were to stray a little from the fiscal consolidation path with the aim of accelerating growth? Another question which is being hotly discussed is whether the drubbing the Bharatiya Janata Party got at the hands of the Aam Aadmi Party in the recently-concluded Delhi assembly elections will impact Budget 2015, and how. Will the government respond by pushing through reform faster? As an exclusive Forbes India-BMR Pre-Budget CEO Poll shows, poor infrastructure and the need for better skilling of workers are just two of the many problems which Budget 2015 will have to grapple with.

Mr Jaitley is the only one with the answers. When he rises to present the budget on February 28, he would have the aspirations of 1.2 billion Indians riding on him. And as his predecessors will tell him, that’s never an easy task. More so when the government has been elected on the promise of better days.

Sourav Majumdar
Editor, Forbes India
Twitter id:@TheSouravM   

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(This story appears in the 06 March, 2015 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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