Budget 2018 to be a political document: Jayant Sinha

New Delhi: Civil aviation minister Jayant Sinha said on Thursday that Union budget 2018, the last full budget of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, will be a political document rather than a market-focused one, in the wake of impending state assembly elections and the general elections early next year.

In an interview to CNBC, Sinha said that BJP-led NDA is confident of winning Congress-ruled Karnataka, one of the eight states going to polls later this year and is expecting the coalition to perform well in the north-eastern region.

“The way you need to look at the budget at this point is not necessarily from the perspective of economic narrative or what the stock market is expecting or which sectors are doing better or which sectors worse. That is the wrong lens to look at the budget. We have now gone into the election season. You have to look at the budget as a political document, as a political statement,” Sinha said in an interview to CNBC TV18.

Assembly elections are due in eight states later this year—Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Nagaland, Tripura, Meghalaya and Mizoram. Four other states are going to polls in the first half of 2019.

The minister’s remarks come at a time the economy is making steady recovery from the disruptions caused by structural reforms such as demonetisation and roll-out of the goods and services tax (GST) that had led to a slowdown in growth in the first quarter of 2017-18.

The Economic Survey tabled in Parliament by finance minister Arun Jaitley on Monday estimated that the worst is over for the economy and that it is poised to rebound and grow in the range of 7-7.5% in 2018-19.

Sinha declined to speak about the specifics of the budget but said the government has demonstrated great fiscal prudence and that the Budget will be very well balanced. The Economic Survey 2017-18 has made a brilliant narrative of the economy, the minister said.

The Survey highlighted the benefits of structural reforms such as a wider tax base and a more formal economy and suggested that urgent measures are needed to stimulate private investments.

Former finance minister and Congress party leader P. Chidambaram said on Thursday that chief economic advisor in the finance ministry Arvind Subramaniam, who authored the Survey, has given his diagnosis. “Let’s see whether the patient (the government in charge of the economy) is still in denial or it will take corrective action,” said Chidambaram.livemint