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India risks missing budget gap target for fiscal year, data shows

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India risks missing its budget deficit target for the current fiscal year, data released on Thursday suggested, and economists said the government had already started to cut capital spending in an attempt to narrow the gap.

A man counts Indian currency notes inside a shop in Mumbai, India, August 13, 2018. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

The data showed the fiscal deficit in the April-November period stood at 7.17 trillion rupees ($101.93 billion), or 114.8 percent of the budgeted target for the fiscal year that ends in March.

It is the second consecutive month that the deficit has come in above 100 percent of the budgeted target. In the April-October period India reported a fiscal deficit of 6.49 trillion rupees, or 103.9 percent of the budgeted full-year target.

The government has set a fiscal deficit target of 3.3 percent of gross domestic product for the current fiscal year.

Net tax receipts in the April-November period were 7.32 trillion rupees, against a full-year target of 14.81 trillion rupees, while total spending stood at 16.13 trillion rupees, against the full-year target of 24.42 trillion rupees.

“There are several risks to meeting the budgeted targets for revenues and expenditures, with one of the predominant concerns arising from a possible shortfall in indirect tax collections,” said Aditi Nayar, principal economist at ratings agency ICRA.

Nayar said 93 percent of the budget estimate for fuel subsidies had been released in the April-November period and that the government might need more funds for fuel subsidies in the coming months.

The government also reported April-November capital expenditure - for use in construction of roads, improved railways and the creation of other physical assets - of 1.91 trillion rupees, which is 63.8 percent of the full-year target.

One economist said the government had started cutting capital spending for the year to counter the fiscal deficit slippage.

“It appears course correction has already begun and the axe has fallen on capex. Monthly average capex in October-November is 46 percent lower than the monthly average in the April-September period,” said Devendra Pant, chief economist at India Ratings.

The government also faces the risk of missing its divestment target from the sale of state assets as it has garnered less than half of the 800 billion rupees target set for the year.

Reporting by Manoj Kumar and Aftab Ahmed; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Gareth Jones