Fiscal Prudence for What? Analysing the State Finances of Karnataka
Publication dateJan, 2020
DetailsNIPFP Working Paper No. 293
AuthorsJannet Farida Jacob and Lekha Chakraborty
Karnataka is the first state in India to have introduced a fiscal rules framework, even before the central government had enacted the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act, 2003. The Karnataka Fiscal Responsibility Act was enacted in 2002. Karnataka is consistently fiscally-prudent with its revenue deficit-to-GSDP ratio reducing to near-zero and the fiscal deficit-to-GSDP ratio below 3%. How the state has achieved fiscal prudence? Is it through revenue buoyancy or through expenditure compression? Our analysis shows that the tax-to-GSDP ratio of the state is not increasing and it is around 7% of GSDP. As around 70% of state finances come from own revenue resources, has the declining buoyancy in “own revenue” prompted the state to go for selective expenditure compression to maintain fiscal prudence? Examining the expenditure side, we found that the state has compressed its capital expenditure and marginally decreased its spending on education and social welfare and nutrition. This has its ramification on the outcomes of education, on the one hand, in terms of declining enrolment at the primary level and increasing dropout rates in secondary level, and on the other hand, rendering Karnataka as one of the most vulnerable states in terms of nutrition (anthropometric) indicators. There seems to be a shift in the focus of public spending from education and health to water and sanitation, within the social sector budget. At this juncture, it is intriguing that the state, with comfortable levels of fiscal consolidation since 2005, has resorted to heavy off-budget borrowing to finance state programmes. This has added to the already increasing ratio of interest payment to own revenue receipt, albeit off budget borrowing being hardly one percent of GSDP. The fiscal marksmanship analysis showed systematic bias in the forecasting of own tax revenue, grants and capital expenditure. This calls for the reduction in the volatility of intergovernmental fiscal transfers to the state as well as improving the assumptions and forecasting methodologies of the macro-fiscal variables like own tax revenue and capital spending.