It was titled as an "Interim Budget 2019-20", but hardly seemed so. There were some solid measures that were included in the Budget, leaving critics arguing that the government may not meet the fiscal deficit numbers. There were barely any revenue raising measures.
The stock markets too got excited and the Nifty jumped a huge 150 points at one stage, only to give up most gains, as reality of fiscal prudence began to gradually sink in.
Moody's said that the fiscal deficit was credit negative for India. The government will face challenges meeting its fiscal deficit target next year because of new fiscal spending and no new policies to increase revenue, global rating agency Moodys said in a note.
For starters, the relief package announced to farmers is a staggering Rs 75,000 crores. However, when it trickles down to the farmer, a sum of Rs 500 each month or Rs 6,000 annually, may just not be good enough. One will have to really wait and see, if the benefits to farmers would actually translate into political gains for the BJP.
Devil in the details for the income tax rebate
The government also announced that no income tax is now payable for those who earn an income below Rs 5 lakhs. The government has granted a rebate and your tax slab has not changed. Remember, this is only a rebate, which means those in the upper tax brackets would gain only to the extent of the standard deduction, which was enhanced to Rs 50,000 from Rs 40,000. Actually, you stand to pay zero tax, if your income is Rs 6.5 lakhs, because you get Rs 1.5 lakhs tax benefit for Sec 80C tax benefits.
The real catch is that the above measure would be implemented by the next government.
Bond yields surge on fiscal deficit worries
Following the budget, bond yields surged and the rupee dropped, over worries that the government would not meet the fiscal deficit numbers.
As bond yields surged, banking stocks fell, which is always the case. Clearly, goodies are welcome, but, the pressure on the expenditure side will leave investors worried. In any case, it could be a headache for the next government, which would once again deliver a Budget possibly in July and this time it would be a full fledged Union Budget.
What will the RBI do now?
Given that the fiscal deficit numbers are high, the Reserve Bank of India in its Monetary Policy meet of this month, maybe forced to hold interest rates steady. There were hopes that the country's central bank would cut interest rates.
But, bond markets are not signalling that. It would be interesting to see what happens to the forex, stock and money markets next week, after the fine print has been read.