Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has come up with a Budget that did not deserve a thumbs down from the Nifty, which ended the day’s trading 0.26% lower. This was more on account of the troubles of the Adani Group and, by association, of public sector banks with exposure to the group.
The big boost to capital expenditure — including grants in aid of capex; the increase in capex is Rs 3.2 lakh crore, to Rs 13.7 lakh crore — is welcome and suggests that the Budget is pro-growth. That pro-growth glow loses some sheen when we take into account the total size of the Budget. It has come down from 16% of GDP in 2021-22 to 15.3% in 2022-23 and is slated to fall further to 14.9% next fiscal year. This reflects the longstanding inability of the system to significantly increase the share of taxes in GDP — the only way to raise total expenditure is to borrow, which means that fiscal correction also brings down the size of total spending.