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PM Modi Aims to Unlock $12 Billion to Curb Inflation Before Elections

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is taking proactive steps to address the growing concern of inflation by considering the reallocation of as much as $12 billion from various budgets. These efforts are aimed at mitigating the impact of rising prices on consumers, all in anticipation of upcoming elections.

In a bid to grapple with the surge in food and fuel expenses, government authorities are actively considering a strategy to repurpose up to Rs 1 trillion (equivalent to $12 billion) from the budgets allocated to different ministries. Individuals familiar with the situation have disclosed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is poised to make a decision in the forthcoming weeks. This decision could encompass a range of measures, including potential reductions in taxes on domestic gasoline sales and relaxation of import tariffs on essential commodities like cooking oil and wheat. It’s important to note that the sources have requested anonymity due to the confidential nature of these discussions.

Addressing Consumer Costs: Building on Last Year’s Blueprint

If this proposal comes to fruition, it would mark the second consecutive year of such budgetary adjustments designed to alleviate financial burdens for consumers. In the preceding year, the government had introduced a $26-billion strategy with a similar intent. These propositions emerge in the wake of the recent monetary policy decision by the central bank, which maintained borrowing rates unchanged – notably among the highest in Asia. The central bank’s decision was accompanied by concerns about the escalating impact of soaring prices.

Accelerating Measures Amid Escalating Prices

The urgency to address this issue has intensified among government officials following Prime Minister Modi’s recent address to the nation. In this address, he expressed his commitment to combating inflation, which has now reached a 15-month high. India’s history has demonstrated how fluctuations in the prices of basic commodities such as onions and tomatoes can significantly impact public sentiment and even topple governments. While Prime Minister Modi faces the task of curbing price hikes within a limited timeframe to appeal to voters, he must also exercise fiscal prudence to avert an excessive budget deficit. This fiscal restraint is of paramount importance to maintain confidence among global investors who are keenly observing India’s economic trajectory.

Unlocking Budgetary Flexibility for Strategic Maneuvers

While the practice of reallocating budgetary resources is not uncommon in India, the current economic landscape, characterized by increased dividends from the central bank and stable tax collections due to robust economic growth, allows for substantial maneuverability. This budgetary space amounts to approximately a trillion rupees, equivalent to about 2% of the annual budget spanning from April 2023 to March 2024. Experts highlight that these funds could be utilized to extend affordable loans and housing options for low-income individuals, all while adhering to the stipulated budget deficit target of 5.9% of the gross domestic product for the current fiscal year.

Balancing Priorities Amidst External and Internal Pressures

While these discussions unfold, it’s worth noting that the finance ministry has not yet provided an official comment on the matter. One of the sources also highlighted that efforts to combat price manipulation in the food market will persist, aiming to alleviate the pressures on consumer costs.

The current spike in prices of household essentials like tomatoes and onions can be attributed to erratic rainfall patterns and floods affecting various regions of the country. To compound these challenges, the government had already prohibited wheat exports in the preceding year and, more recently, imposed restrictions on certain rice varieties and food staple stockpiling.

In conclusion, the government’s strategic financial adjustments serve as a testament to the delicate balancing act between addressing immediate consumer concerns and upholding long-term fiscal stability.

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