India's new loan guarantees may have limited impact on the Covid-hit economy

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Indian People queue up at a COVID screening center at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital,(RML) after a case emerged in Delhi causing a panic situation in Delhi India, 04 March 2020.

Imtiyaz Khan | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

India has rolled out a slew of measures amounting to 6.3 trillion rupees ($84.9 billion) aimed at boosting the Covid-struck economy — but economists are skeptical that it will have a major impact on short-term growth.

The impact of those policies — that amount to about 2.8% of GDP — on the country’s fiscal deficit target is expected to be comparatively small.

Economists pointed out that the bulk of the support comes in the form of loan guarantees — instead of direct stimulus such as checks that are paid directly to households. Besides, some of the measures were previously announced and have already been factored into calculations.

For the current fiscal year that ends in March 2022, India’s fiscal deficit target is around 6.8% of GDP. A fiscal deficit is the gap between a government’s income and spending, and implies that the country is spending more than its revenue.

“While the headline impact of the announcements is sizeable, for much part these were credit guarantees, making the net impact on the fiscal math smaller,” said Radhika Rao, an economist with Singapore’s DBS Group, in a note on Tuesday.

She explained that some measures — such as subsidies, free food grain and support toward pediatric health — may have a likely impact on the fiscal deficit. But, there might be “some wiggle room” from a higher nominal GDP and a likely reprioritization in existing spending to minimize the risk of exceeding the fiscal deficit target.

What was announced?

Stimulating growth

The latest support measures were similar to how the government responded to India’s first wave of coronavirus outbreak last year, Rao told CNBC by email. Monday’s announcement was aimed at improving the flow of credit to the worst-affected sectors and vulnerable households, she said.

“The fiscal push is predominantly on the supply side rather than a direct boost to demand, containing the extent of immediate boost to growth,” she said. The ongoing reopening of the economy and improving vaccination progress will likely be “bigger catalysts of near-term recovery,” she added.

Fiscal deficit target

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