Economic Survey moots Universal Basic Income for India's poor

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley tabled the Economic Survey Report for 2017-18 on Tuesday in the Lok Sabha. The cash squeeze in the meantime will have significant implications for GDP, reducing 2016-17 growth by ¼ to ½ percentage points compared to the baseline of 7 percent. This, in turn will allow growth to converge to the trends rates and move GDP growth to the 6.75% to 7.5% range in 2017-18. "Some of this weakness could be offset through higher public investment, but that would depend on the stance of fiscal policy next year, which has to balance the short-term requirements of an economy recovering from demonetisation against the medium-term necessity of adhering to fiscal discipline - and the need to be seen as doing so", it said.

Briefly, the costs include a contraction in cash money supply and subsequent, albeit temporary, slowdown in GDP growth; and benefits include increased digitalization, greater tax compliance and a reduction in real estate prices, which could increase long-run tax revenue collections and GDP growth.

"The Economic Survey's estimate of growth at 6.75-7.5 per cent is on expected lines, and CII believes that this will be achieved".

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Hailing Goods and Services Tax (GST) as a landmark step in economic reforms, the pre-Budget Economic Survey on pitched for including land and other immovable property the key source of black money creation in the indirect tax regime to help propel GDP growth to 8-10 per cent. It stated demonetisation led to "job losses, decline in farm incomes and social disruption, especially in cash intensive sectors".

In the most recent year, it said FDI is running at an annual rate of Dollars 75 billion, which is not far short of the amounts that China was receiving at the height of its growth boom in the mid-2000s. Earlier this month, the government projected economic growth for the year through March to slow to 7.1% from 7.6% in 2015-16.

It said that the government also codified the institutional arrangements on monetary policy with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to consolidate the gains from macroeconomic stability by ensuring that inflation control will be less susceptible to the whims of individuals and the caprice of governments.

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"The strong macroeconomic fundamentals brought out in the Economic Survey are commendable during challenging global developments", CII's statement said.

The Economic Survey 2016-17 has advocated fast remonetisation, a cut in tax rates and stamp duties and reining in over-zealous tax administration to make India the world's fastest growing major economy again.

Invoking Mahatma Gandhi's vision of "wiping every tear from every eye", it made a pitch for implementing Universal Basic Income (UBI) to entitle the poor with at least some income and thus eliminate poverty. The observations in the Economic Survey at a time when crude oil prices are are on the rise will be something to watch out for.

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