This article originally appeared on Fortune India.
In the lead up to the budget speech, it was anticipated that the Finance Minister, Mr. Arun Jaitley, would have had one eye on the upcoming Assembly elections this year and the Lok Sabha in 2019.
The most common phrase bandied about from prognosticators was that this was going to be a “populist” budget with many sops. The FM was also dealing with lower revenue receipts and a higher than expected fiscal deficit for this time of the year. He was therefore going to have to walk a fine line in terms of making sure that various constituencies were satisfied and at the same time sticking close to the commitments he had made over the years on fiscal deficit.
The overall take-away is that he has managed to pull off well the balancing act. The decision to not stick to the fiscal deficit targets that he set for himself for FY18 and FY19 is as much a political statement as it is an economic one. He has decided that it is far more important to breach the norms in the short term to ensure that growth is not stifled and that there is potential headroom for job creation. Increasing the interest burden of the country at a time when oil prices have been creeping up steadily could well be an unintended consequence.
Sri Rajan is chairman of Bain & Company India.