Economic Survey 2019: A gaffe by the government machinery created a major confusion among the policy circles when several media houses put the country’s fiscal deficit for FY 2018-19 at 5.8% citing the economic survey tabled today in both the houses of Parliament by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Fiscal deficit is one of the most keenly watched numbers by the markets and economists as it has a bearing over the availability of credit and interest rate in the economy.
Interim budget presented on February 1 by Piyush Goyal had put the fiscal deficit number for the last financial year at 3.4% of the country’s GDP.
The confusion was created by the finance ministry’s official twitter handle which retweeted public broadcaster DD News that put the fiscal deficit number at 5.8% of the country’s GDP. At around 11.40 am Thursday morning, DD News tweeted that finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had tabled the economic survey in Parliament.
In the next tweet, DD News used the hashtag #EconomicSurvey and said: "FY19 Fiscal Deficit at 5.8%, Oil Prices expected to decline in 2019-20, GDP Growth for 2019-20 to be projected at 7%."
The Union government’s fiscal deficit being over 5% of the country’s GDP was against the common wisdom. As it could not have gone up from the level of 3.4% to 5.8% in the last two months of the previous fiscal.
Fiscal deficit at 5.8% of the GDP reported in DD News’s tweet was actually the general fiscal deficit number, inclusive of both the Union government’s fiscal deficit and that of states. However, it sent some media outlets and economists into a tizzy as DD News’s tweet retweeted by finance ministry’s twitter handle did not clarify this aspect.
Realising its goof up, DD News’s later deleted the tweet from its official handle. It later tweeted outlook for the oil prices and GDP growth projection for 2019-20 and removed the first line that put the fiscal deficit at 5.8%. Later, finance ministry also deleted that DD News tweet from its twitter handle.