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Union Budget 2012-13: Timing of implementation on GST, DTC remains uncertain, says S&P
March, 19th 2012

Apprehending "uncertainty" in implementation of key reforms like Goods and Services Tax and Direct Tax Codes by the government, global rating agencies have said the budgetary proposals fail to give a timeline on the same.

"While the Finance Minister announced various fiscal reforms, the timing of the implementation of key reform measures such as the Goods and Services Tax ( GST), Direct Tax Codes ( DTC), and the targeted direct subsidy disbursement remains uncertain," Standard & Poor's said.

Another rating agency Fitch said weak public finances are putting pressure on India's sovereign rating.

"The government's willingness and ability to implement it (fiscal consolidation) will be an important component of our assessment of its (India) rating. Implementation risk is high ahead of federal parliamentary elections in 2014," Fitch said.

"Public finances have been deteriorating and remain a key weakness in India's 'BBB-' rating, it said adding, "our outlook on the rating is Stable."

The rating agencies were reacting to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's budgetary proposals for 2012-13 presented yesterday. They said the Budget did not offer much measures to rein in the fiscal deficit.

According to the budget, India's fiscal deficit is estimated at 5.1 per cent of GDP in 2012-2013, compared with 5.9 per cent of GDP in the current financial year.

S&P said India's deficit in the next fiscal is likely to remain high, and uncertainty surrounded the path to subsidy consolidation and to lowering fiscal vulnerability to volatile commodity prices.

Fitch also said the subsidy cap of 2 per cent of GDP set out in the budget would be positive for the country.

The Finance Minister announced proposals aimed at reducing the total size of subsidies to 2 per cent of GDP in 2012-2013, and further down to about 1.75 per cent of GDP in three years.

According to S&P, with a general election likely in 2014, the chances of India achieving a central government deficit target of 3 per cent of GDP for fiscals 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 seem remote.

The finance minister announced an amendment to the Fiscal Management and Budget Responsibility Act, 2003 (FRBM), which was suspended in March 2009.

"Depending on what the Act will cover, we expect the amended FRBM to enhance investors' confidence in the government's commitment to fiscal consolidation," it said.

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