Covid-19 has taken the economy off the cliff; recent enquiry by most of the banks and economists have put a tag of 3 to 5 per cent drop in the GDP for the full year, these numbers for the moment are not improving after the stimulus but actually deteriorating. Did something go wrong in the stimulus?
Well first of all any stimulus package has two components, the monetary component, which acts on the supply side and a fiscal component, which acts on the demand side as when additional spend items from the side of the government happens due to additional cash deployed from the government, the economic activities see a fresh lease of life. But this would mean additional cash spending that can only come from additional loans taken by the government over and above the existing ones at play.
Take the US stimulus, the first tranche of $2 trillion, which is 10 per cent of GDP and it is a great way to see how the stimulus works. Half of this is actually monetary in nature, these are loans, $500 billion for large businesses and $367 billion for small businesses and $150 billion to State and local governments. This makes 5 per cent of GDP. It will strengthen the supply side. The balance 5 per cent of GDP is actually cash transfers directly to the people ($1,200 for each adult and $500 for each child).
The whole stimulus package is worth one paragraph. The fiscal action of actually spending by the government is done though cash directly to the populace who can spend. But the Indian stimulus consisting of several tranches makes it difficult to dissect what is fiscal and what is monetary and what is reallocation of existing resources.
Let us take the overall numbers of the Indian stimulus package. The overall pledge of Rs 20 lakh crore looks just the kind of stimulus that India actually needs. But the stimulus is directed to monetary release, which by the way has been tried by RBI for the past several months to stimulate supply but the transmission channels showed no traction. The total pledge by the government is a staggering Rs 11.43 lakh crore and adding Rs 40,000 crore of MGNREGS it takes the tally to Rs 11.83 lakh crore of pledges, while the balance of the Rs 20 lakh crore is reallocation of resources.
But surprisingly, the real cash outgo is just Rs 1.37 lakh crore, this is not even 1 per cent of GDP.
The real cash outflow is what really matters now. Think of the US stimulus and the immediate cash outflow was 5 per cent of the GDP as direct payments to the people; the business loans and those to the State governments also released a significant chunk of the funds immediately (at least the ones to the airlines and hospitality sector was immediate). If I tried to dissect the myriad of initiatives that got added in the tranches like the Coal evacuation initiatives, that would add another Rs 50,000 crore as a fiscal stimulus taking the tally to Rs 2.5 lakh crore.
So the 10 per cent stimulus effectively comes to less than 1 per cent of actual cash release. This is the amount that the government is going to draw additional to what it is already committed to draw this year. This is all that will change in terms of the government's fiscal position.
Isn't it too little and how much of that is going to the most distressed people, the migrants, who have returned to their homeland? Well, giving food to them is the right thing to do, but is it a stimulus, that is a million dollar question; most of the purported items in the stimulus appear to be reallocation of resources.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Procyon Mukherjee works as Chief Procurement Officer at LafargeHolcim India. The ideas presented are his personal and have no connection to the beliefs of the company where he works.