Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present what is perhaps the most consequential Budget in recent history on February 1. The broad direction of the Budget will be critical in determining the medium-term outlook for the economy. Apart from the broad policy thrust, it would be vital to see how the government intends to manage its finances. The Covid-induced economic disruption, which is projected to cut the size of the Indian economy by 7.7 per cent in real terms during the year, has significantly affected the government’s revenue and expenditure. The fact that government finances were already under pressure even before the Covid crisis only complicated matters. The fiscal deficit in 2019-20 is estimated to have gone up to 4.6 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), compared to the Budget estimate of 3.3 per cent of GDP. The final fiscal deficit number for the current year is bound to go up considerably from the budgeted 3.5 per cent of GDP.
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