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A country’s fiscal balance is measured by its government’s revenue vis-a-vis its expenditure in a given financial year. Fiscal deficit, the condition when the expenditure of the government exceeds its revenue in a year, is the difference between the two. Fiscal deficit is calculated both in absolute terms and as a percentage of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The fiscal deficit of a country is calculated as a percentage of its GDP or simply as the total money spent by the government in excess of its income. In either case, the income figure includes only taxes and other revenues and excludes money borrowed to make up the shortfall.
In her maiden Union Budget, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had revised the government’s fiscal deficit target for 2019-20 to 3.3 per cent of GDP, 10 basis points lower than the target for the previous financial year.
How is fiscal deficit calculated?
The fiscal deficit, in mathematical terms, is [total revenue generated — total expenditure]. The total revenue is the sum of revenue receipts, recovery of loans and other receipts of the government.
While most countries continue to project a deficit in their economies, a surplus is a rare phenomenon. A high deficit at times also emerges if the government is spending on developmental works like construction of highways, ports, roads, airports which will later generate revenue for the government.
What are components of the fiscal deficit calculation?
The fiscal deficit calculations are based on two components — income and expenditure.
Income component: The income component is made of two variables, revenue generated from taxes levied by the Centre and the income generated from non-tax variables. The taxable income consists of the amount generated from corporation tax, income tax, Customs duties, excise duties, GST, among others. Meanwhile, the non-taxable income comes from external grants, interest receipts, dividends and profits, receipts from Union Territories, among others.
Expenditure component: The government in its Budget allocates funds for several works, including payments of salaries, pensions, emoluments, creation of assets, funds for infrastructure, development, health and numerous other sectors that form the expenditure component.
How is fiscal deficit balanced out?
While a rising deficit is a challenge for the government in the long term, to balance it out in short-term macroeconomics, the government looks at market borrowings by issuing bonds and selling them in through banks. Banks buy these bonds with currency deposits and then sell them to investors. Government bonds are considered an extremely safe investment instrument, so the interest rate paid on loans to the government represents risk-free investment.
The government also sees a deficit situation as an opportunity to expand policies and schemes, including welfare programmes, without having to raise taxes or cut spending in the Budget.