Fiscal Slippage for Two Consecutive Years Leading to Negative Credit: Moody’s

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Moody’s Investors Service said that fiscal slippage from the budgeted targets for the past two consecutive years and tax cuts and spending ahead of the general elections, is credit negative for India.

In the interim budget for 2019-20, the government proposed to increase spending to provide income support for small farmers and introduce a middle-class tax cut in the run up to the general election between April and May.

In light of these budget measures, the government announced slippage from its original fiscal deficit targets to 3.4 per cent of GDP both for the fiscal years ending in March 2019 and March 2020.

“Ongoing fiscal slippage from spending and tax cut proposals ahead of election is credit negative for the sovereign,” Moody’s said.

It said the ongoing fiscal slippage from the budgeted targets over the past two years, and our expectation that the government will face challenges meeting its target again in fiscal 2019, does not bode well for medium-term fiscal consolidation.

Moody’s, however, said that lack of a formal capital support plan for public sector banks is credit negative.

The budget does not include any provisions for capital support for public sector banks (PSBs). Meanwhile, the budget also does not address last year’s announced merger of three public sector non-life insurers, which creates ambiguity around their merger plan, the US-based rating agency said.

On cross-sector analysis of Budget, Moody’s said the Budget proposals are positive for the real estate sector but negative for state-owned oil and gas companies.

“The budget includes both direct and indirect benefits for the real estate sector and will likely help boost property demand,” Moody’s said.

For state-owned oil and gas companies, a planned increase in expected proceeds from dividends and disinvestments, in addition to an under provision of fuel subsidies, is negative, it added.

Further, modest increase in public spending for infrastructure is credit positive. The planned increase in public infrastructure spending is credit positive for companies in this sector. Capital outlays for key segments within infrastructure, like highways and railways, will increase modestly in fiscal 2019 from fiscal 2018.

Besides, middle-class tax relief and measures to boost farmers’ incomes are credit positive for Indian asset-backed securities (ABS) and residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) because they will help borrowers remain current on their payments and reduce default risk.

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