Many praised India’s annual budget in February, raising hopes that it would spark a rapid economic recovery. However, there are now concerns that its promise may be unfulfilled since it failed to account for a crippling second wave of COVID-19 infections.

The budget aims to resurrect Asia’s third-largest economy by investing in infrastructure and health care, while relying on an aggressive privatisation plan and strong tax collections – on the back of anticipated growth of 10.5 percent – to cover its expenditure in the fiscal year.

India would not see a budget like this in “100 years,” according to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. At the time, the economy was on course to recover from its deepest recorded depression, thanks to a huge COVID-19 immunisation campaign and a revival in consumer demand and investments.

After the United States, the South Asian country is fighting the world’s second-highest coronavirus burden, with 300,000 infections and 4,000 deaths every day. With numerous sections of the country under varying degrees of lockdown, most of the budget’s growth estimates are now in jeopardy.

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The severity of the problem has investors questioning if India, which was once anticipated to become an economic giant, still deserves to keep its ‘investment grade’ rating after years of debt accumulation.

India’s catastrophic second wave, according to Moody’s, will hinder the near-term economic recovery and may have an impact on longer-term growth dynamics. It lowered its GDP prediction from 13.7 percent to 9.3 percent.

While the government claims it is too early to modify its own figures, officials privately admit that if social distancing measures persist, growth will be far more muted than previously predicted.

Apart from giving 350 billion rupees ($4.78 billion) in the budget for vaccine expenditures, the government had not set aside any funds for contingencies arising from a second wave, and officials say the government may now have to cut back on some expenditure.

A request for comment from India’s finance ministry was not returned.



The Indian bureaucracy has been hard damaged by the health crisis, with many key employees afflicted with the coronavirus, delaying decisions on privatisations and other suggested reforms.

Two senior officials stated that the privatisation of assets such as oil refiner Bharat Petroleum Corp and national carrier Air India, whose processes are well along, could now be put back to early 2022, three months later than envisaged.

“The virtual data room for BPCL NSE -0.44 percent has been opened for initial bidders,” one of the executives said, “but given the lockdown, physical verification of assets is unlikely right now.”

The delays will have an impact on a number of other privatisation proposals, including two banks, insurance, and energy businesses, which are at the heart of the budget’s proposed reforms and are critical to meeting the nearly $24 billion target from asset sales and privatisations, according to authorities.

According to them, the issue is also likely to postpone India’s largest insurer Life Insurance Corp’s IPO, which was anticipated to raise $8-$10 billion.

According to another source, the lockdowns will begin to influence tax collections in June, potentially decreasing revenues by 15% to 20% compared to projections for the quarter.