‘Farm loan waivers to touch 2% of GDP in run-up to 2019 polls’

Venkatesan R | | Updated on: Jan 15, 2018


Bank of America Merill Lynch raises the red flag, says the move poses fiscal risk

Within a fortnight of UP’s farm loan waiver and calls for it in other States, a foreign brokerage today estimated the burden from such populist measures to touch 2 per cent of GDP by the 2019 elections.

“Farm loan waivers of up to 2 per cent of GDP in the run up to the 2019 hustings pose fiscal/rate risk and impacts credit culture,” analysts at Bank of America Merill Lynch said in a note today.

They said the UP government’s debt waiver of $5 billion or 0.4 per cent of the State GDP, will lead other States to follow such populist suit.

Even though the Centre has asked the States to take care of its finances while declaring such schemes, the note said the States will continue to be in breach of the indicative 3-3.5 per cent fiscal deficit numbers. Already most of the States are running over 3.5 per cent deficits.

Maharashtra, Haryana and Tamil Nadu are also demanding farm loan waivers.

In fact, the Madras High Court ordered the State to write off the entire farm loans in the State which would entail a hit of over ₹4,000 crore to the State finances.

Terming such measures as a “worry”, the note welcomed Reserve Bank Governor Urjit Patel’s warning on the farm loan waivers creating a moral hazard by inducing farmers not to pay and also spiking rates.

The American brokerage said the farm loan waivers are a “key risk” to the new fiscal deficit roadmap proposed by the NK Singh committee.

Once the demand for credit picks up, such measures can spike yields and put pressure on lending rates as banks will want to lend to high-yielding commercial credit, it said.

National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) has also raised concern on the issue.

It also welcomed the provisions to make fiscal deficit number counter cyclical, saying it is on expected lines.

The achievement of fiscal gap numbers — 3 per cent between fiscal 2018 and 2020 and reduction to 2.8 per cent in fiscal 2021, 2.6 per cent in fiscal 2022 and 2.5 per cent in the next year — depends on the global situation.

“If it (global economy) turns up/down, rising/falling tax collections from higher/lower activity will contract/expand the fiscal deficit,” it said.

Published on April 17, 2017
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