India: India Economic Update - April 2015

Last Updated: 22 October 2015
Article by Milind S. Kothari

The end of February 2015 saw the unveiling of the first full-fledged Annual Budget by the Finance Minister, Mr. Arun Jaitley. The expectations from this Budget were similar to the release of a Hollywood blockbuster and no less. The pain points in the Indian economy are several; reviving investments, pushing sluggish exports, stagnant manufacturing and importantly, to get growth back on track. The anxiety was heightened owing to the need for much-wanted Tax reforms with the key agenda items being ; removal of tax uncertainties, creating a non-adversarial tax regime and the all-important tax reform - roll-out of Goods and Services Tax (GST) w.e.f April 01, 2016.

The Budget provides a rounded delivery on most expectations but the key remains, the execution. After a long time, one got the sense that the Budget was drafted by Policy-makers and not the bureaucrats and had a sense of fresh approach all pervading. Although, most would admit that the Budget was not a big bang exercise, it has set tone for long term revival of growth of the Indian economy and seems poised for GDP growth in excess of 8% for fiscal 2015-16.

As one would recall, the Government led by Mr. Narendra Modi got a mandate from the people of India on the promise of wide economic reforms across sectors to revive the sluggish economy. The reforms agenda and deliverance on this promise is being measured constantly by the business community and the media.

The reform in insurance sector was set off with increase in the foreign direct investment ('FDI') from the existing limit of 26% to 49%. This notification has ensured hectic pace of M&A activity with foreign joint venture partners in insurance companies seeking to raise their investment threshold in investee companies. This apart, in the wake of the Supreme Court cancelling allocation of 204 coal blocks, the Government initiated coal block auction and out of 33 blocks that have been auctioned, the Government has realized a whopping US $ 31bn which will kick start investment in capital goods and transport of equipments. Following these game changers in the energy sector, the telecom spectrum allocation has realized no less than US $18 bn. The divestment target (dilution of Government holding in public sector undertaking) is set on an ambitious note and would all but achieve its target for fiscal 2015-16.

Also, in line with the election promise, the Government has embarked on passing of an ambitious Land bill through the ordinance route (Presidential assent as opposed to passing of bill through both the houses) which will set right the much needed Land acquisition regulations, critical for the growth of the industry and low-cost housing.

Lastly, the big Agenda that the Government need to quickly resolve is to improve the index-rating of the 'Ease of Doing Business' in India which is vital to win confidence of the foreign investors to do business in India. Incremental steps have been taken at regular intervals to bring about this transformation which India importantly needs to address. Despite chronic challenges that India has always faced, the future of Indian economy is set on a high growth course backed by the spirit of the private enterprise that is, world class.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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