Islamic Finance to reduce fiscal deficit in India




By Syed Zahid Ahmad,

At a time when economic recovery needs more stimuli by the Government of India (GoI), there is also an urgent need to safeguard the economy from the debt trap because the GDP growth rate fell to 6.7% in 2008-09 against 9% in 2007-08; the debt servicing reached to 58.83% of the total expenditure for the year 2008-09. It means maximum receipts are now spent for debt servicing which accounted to 15.87% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), while the debt receipts were 9.78% of the GDP in 2008-09. Even the interest payments were 21.39% of the total expenditures by GoI and 5.77% of the GDP in 2008-09. Notably the revenue deficit in 2008-09 is already 30% due to high debt serving ratio to total revenue expenditure.

In an attempt to find the actual reasons behind high fiscal deficit, it is observed that the increased debt receipts by GoI to finance revenue expenditures (especially high debt servicing); increased subsidies on food, fuel and fertilizer; and rural development through schemes like NREGS, farmer’s loan waiving scheme and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan are the three most important factor of high fiscal deficit. Since there is need of more stimuli to counter recession in the economy, it is expected that the plan expenditures may further increase whereas due to recession, the revenue receipts may decline. This decrease in revenue receipts and increase in plan expenditure may increase the fiscal deficit to an unwanted level high. Working upon different options to reduce the fiscal deficit, it is found that Islamic finance can reduce the fiscal deficit even though if revenue receipts declines and plan expenditures increases.

Islamic financial products has a great role to play in reducing the fiscal deficit in emerging economies by replacing the debt based investments for infrastructure with funds mobilized through equity based Government Securities for infrastructure projects. Let’s see how Islamic finance may help us reduce our present fiscal deficit.


Revised Estimates as presented in Interim Budget for 2009-10

 

Income Expenditure Estimates for Union Budget 2008-09 R. E.

(in Rs. Crores)

  1. Gross Tax Revenue
627,949
  1. Net Tax Revenue
465,970
  1. Total Non-Tax Revenue
96,203
  1. Total Revenue Receipts
562,173
  1. Non-debt Receipts
12,265
  1. Debt Receipts to finance Fiscal Deficit
326,515
Market Loans 261,972
Market loan as % of total debt receipt 80.23%
Debt receipts as % of total receipts 36.24%
Debt receipts as % of total capital receipts 96.38%
  1. Total Capital Receipts
338,780
  1. Total Receipts
900,953
  1. Total Revenue Non-Plan Expenditure
561,790
  1. Total Capital Non-Plan Expenditure
56,206
  1. Total Non-Plan Expenditure
617,996
  1. Total-Revenue Plan Expenditure
241,656
  1. Total Capital Plan Expenditure
41,301
  1. Total – Plan Expenditure
282,957
Total Revenue Expenditures 803,446
Total Capital Expenditures 97,507
  1. Total Budget Support for Central Plan
204,128
  1. Total Central Assistance for State & UT Plans
78,829
  1. Total Expenditure*
900,953
    DEBT SERVICING
  1. Repayment of debt**
337,316
  1. Total Interest Payments
192,694
  1. Total debt servicing (18+19)
530,010
  1. Interest Payments as Percentage to Revenue Receipts
34.30%
  1. Total Debt servicing as Percentage to Revenue Receipts
94.28%
  1. Non Debt receipt as % of total receipts
1.36%
  1. Debt receipts as % of total receipts
36.24%
Interest payment on debts as % of total Expenditure 21.39%
Debt Servicing as % of total Expenditure 58.83%
  1. Interest Payments as Percentage to Total Receipts
21.39%
  1. Repayment of Debts as Percentage to Total Receipts
37.44%
  1. Repayment of Debt as % to GDP
10.10%
  1. Interest payment as % to GDP
5.77%
  1. Total Debt Servicing as % to GDP
15.87%

 

* Excludes expenditure matched by receipts (Details in Annex-2 to Expenditure Budget, Volume-1, 2009-2010)

** Excludes discharge of 91 days, 182 days & 14 days intermediate Treasury bills, discharge of Ways & Means Advances including overdraft, income and expenditure of National Small Savings Fund (NSSF), investments of NSSF, Reserve Funds and Deposits not bearing interest and suspense transactions. Discharge under MSS met from the sequestered cash balances is not included.

Data source: http://indiabudget.nic.in/

Notably the total revenue expenditure is 142.92% of total revenue receipts reflecting 30.03% revenue deficits. Major cause of this high revenue deficit is high debt service ratio to total revenue expenditures. For a developing economy like India, in the proposed plan we project increasing capital expenditures, but in revised estimates of 2008-09 budget, the revenue expenditure is 89% and capital expenditure is just 11% of total expenditure; all due to high debt servicing ratio (66%) to total revenue expenditure. Notably the interest payment alone is 24% of total revenue expenditures. So, with capital expenditure being as low as just 11% of total expenditure and debt serving being as high as 59% of total expenditure, how can we go planning for foster inclusive growth?

Debt Finances crossed the Planned Estimates:

The debt based finances for investments under 11th five year plan document was proposed to be 48.42% of total receipts for 2008-09, whereas the revised budget estimates reveals that the debt receipts were 96.38% of total capital receipts in 2008-09. This reflects our inability to mobilize targeted amount of non debt receipts, causing high fiscal deficit due to interest payments over borrowed debt receipts.


Source-wise Projected Investment for 11th Plan

(Rs crore at 2006–07 prices)

 

Sources 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11 2011–12 Total 11th

Plan

1. Centre 112,608 128,305 148,545 172,123 204,041 765,622
Central Budget 29,416 33,517 38,804 44,963 53,301 200,000
Internal Generation (IEBR) 24,958 28,437 32,922 38,148 45,222 169,687
Borrowings (IEBR) 58,234 66,352 76,819 89,012 105,518 395,936
2. States 79,499 99,022 124,998 160,232 207,186 670,937
States Budgets 52,689 65,628 82,844 106,195 137,315 444,671
Internal Generation (IEBR) 8,043 10,018 12,646 16,211 20,961 67,880
Borrowings (IEBR) 18,767 23,376 29,508 37,826 48,910 158,386
3. Private 78,166 94,252 115,724 146,762 184,687 619,591
Internal Accruals/Equity 23,450 28,726 34,717 44,029 55,406 185,877
Borrowings 54,716 65,976 81,006 102,733 129,281 433,713
Borrowings as % to private 70.00% 70.00% 70.00% 70.00% 70.00% 70.00%
4. Total Projected Investment 270,273 321,579 389,266 479,117 595,913 2,056,150
Non-Debt 138,555 165,875 201,933 249,546 312,205 1,068,114
Debt 131,718 155,704 188,333 229,571 283,709 988,035
Non Debt as % of Total 51.26% 51.58% 51.88% 52.08% 52.39% 51.95%
Debt as % of Total 48.74% 48.42% 48.38% 47.92% 47.61% 48.05%

Data Source: http://planningcommission.nic.in/

According to 11th plan documents, projected investments in 2008-09 should be of Rs. 321,579 crores while total plan capital expenditure in revised budget observed as just Rs. 41,301 crores. So the plan capital expenditure is just 12.84% of targeted investment in 2008-09. This shows our inefficiency to make budget development pro to ensure foster and inclusive growth. So, it is better that GoI reduce debt borrowings which ultimately increases revenue deficits; and shift the focus on infrastructure investments to stimulate the economy at a time when GDP growth rates and employment growth rates are falling.

Actual Debt Receipts is 210% to the planned Estimates:

Since the revised estimates on debt receipts (Rs. 326,515 Crores) is already 210% of estimated requirements of debts (Rs. 1,55,704 Crores) by year 2008-09 as projected in 11th five year plan documents, the GoI should seriously think about this increased debt receipts. The funds utilized for debt servicing (Rs. 530,010 Crores) is already 162% of debt receipts to finance fiscal deficit (Rs. 3.26.515 Crores), the GoI should revisit its budgeting. How good is it to increase the debt receipts at a time when Indian industries are looking for more affordable credits from banks to meet the challenges after the global meltdown?

Likely Sources of Debt as projected by the Planning Commission

(Rs crore at 2006–07 prices)

Likely Sources of Debts 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11 2011–12 Total Eleventh

Plan

1 Domestic Bank Credit 49,848 63,207 80,147 101,626 128,862 423,691
As % of likely total debt resources 48.69% 49.99% 51.09% 52.00% 52.72% 51.32%
2 Non-Bank Finance Companies 23,852 31,485 41,560 54,859 72,415 224,171
3 Pension/Insurance Companies 9,077 9,984 10,983 12,081 13,289 55,414
4 External Commercial Borrowing (ECB) 19,593 21,768 24,184 26,868 29,851 122,263
5 Likely Total Debt Resources 102,370 126,444 156,874 195,435 244,416 825,539
6 Estimated Requirement of Debt 131,718 155,704 187,333 229,571 283,709 988,035
US$ Billion 32.93 38.93 46.83 57.39 70.93 247.01
7 Gap between Estimated Requirement and Likely Debt Resources (6–5) 29,348 29,260 30,460 34,136 39,292 162,496
US$ Billion 7.34 7.31 7.61 8.53 9.82 40.62

Data Source: http://planningcommission.nic.in/

In year 2008-09 the deficit budget cost an amount of Rs. 192,694 crores to GoI which was paid as interest over the debt receipts borrowed to finance the deficit budget. This may be called as loss to GoI because had there been equity based receipts against debt receipts, GoI would have saved this amount.

Financing Fiscal Deficit through subsidized bank loans is not good

In the 11th five year plan document it was projected that by year 2008-09, to meet the proposed investment needs around 50% debt receipts worth Rs. 63,207 crores would be mobilized as domestic banks credit. However the figures of revised budget estimates for 2008-09 states that market loans (amounting Rs. 261,972 Crores) are over 80% of total debt receipt by the GoI. The increased flow of subsidized bank loans to GoI for financing fiscal deficit is in fact creating problems for economic growth of the economy because it is creating hurdles for banks to increase the supply of cheaper credit to the private sector at a time when they needs it to minimize their output cost and combat recession. It is observed that beside fall in international demands, the availability of equity finance or cheaper credit sources have affected the business confidence. The equity financial sources are drying up after reversal of capital flows from stock markets due to global meltdown. External Commercial Borrowings (ECBs) and Export Credits have also declined. This all had affected the growth rate for industries.

Industry wise GDP growth trend during recent years

 

Industry 2006-07 2007-08

(QE)

2008-09

(RE)

Percentage change over previous year
2007-08 2008-09
1. Agriculture, forestry & fishing 531,315 557,122 566,045 4.9 1.6
2. Mining & quarrying 60,038 61,999 64,244 3.3 3.6
3. Manufacturing 440,193 476,303 487,739 8.2 2.4
4. Electricity, gas & water supply 60,544 63,730 65,899 5.3 3.4
5. Construction 205,543 226,325 242,577 10.1 7.2
6. Trade, hotels, transport and communication 778,896 875,398 954,589 12.4 9.0
7. Financing, insurance, real estate & business services 409,472 457,584 493,356 11.7 7.8
8. Community, social & personal services 385,118 411,256 464,926 6.8 13.1
9. GDP at factor cost 2,871,120 3,129,717 3,339,375 9.0 6.7

Source: - CSO press release dated 29th May 2009.

Besides evaluating fall in annual growth rate of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from 9.0% in 2007-08 to 6.7% in 2008-09, it would also be important to analyze the growth trend for different industries during last year. The Manufacturing industry employing majority of non agricultural workers observed deepest fall where annual growth rate fell to 2.4% in 2008-09 compared to 8.2% in 2007-08. Similarly the annual growth rate of agriculture, forestry and fishing fell to 1.6% in 2008-09 against 4.9% an year ago.

However the increase in annual growth rate for Community, Social and personal services has remarkably increased to 13.1% in 2008-09 as compared to 6.8% in 2007-08 reflecting the impact of increased expenditures by the Government by financing schemes like NREGS. But it would be important to notice that such expenses have not only increased the fiscal deficit beyond estimated budget for 2009-10, only 9% Indian workforce engaged in Community, Social, and Personal services expected to be benefited through it.

Thus the excess flow of subsidized bank credits to GoI for financing deficit budget is ultimately restraining the economic growth.

Fearing for even higher fiscal deficit?

To reduce the fiscal deficit, it is simple to either cut the expenses or increase the revenues. But under present conditions, it is not possible either to increase the revenue receipts or to cut the expenditures because any increase in taxation will be disastrous at a time when recession has hit the business community and are already demanding for more stimuli to recover. When there is mounting pressure to increase the stimuli, the expenditure is suppose to increase further. Moreover the political promises (to provide subsidized foods and increase flagship programme expenses) by the new Parliamentarians before the election would also increase the plan expenditures. It all increases the possibility of any further increase in the current fiscal deficit.

What the Government should do now?

Considering the constraints to increase the revenue receipts and cut the plan expenditures to control fiscal deficit, the GoI needs to innovate new products for public finance. As almost 60% of total expenditures are made for debt servicing, GoI needs to substitute the debt receipts with equity funds. Since SEBI failed to protect the stock markets and NBFCs dealing in MFs and VCs are not in a position to mobilize huge long term investment funds, GoI needs to innovate Sovereign equities to mobilize adequate amount of non debt receipts for consolidation of public finance.

Considering the available options of capital sources in international market, there are chances to get Islamic funds instead of mere equity funds from the Muslim countries. The equity funds are somehow different from Islamic Funds in the manner that when equity funds are mixed with debt funds, it doesn’t remain Islamic Funds.

Islamic Bond (Sukuk) for public finance in India:

Islamic economist Dr. Shariq Nisar in his paper ‘Islamic Bonds (Sukuk): Its Introduction and Application’ writes that the recent innovations in Islamic finance have changed the dynamics of the Islamic finance industry. Specially in the area of bonds and securities the use of Sukuk or Islamic securities have become increasingly popular in the last few years, both as a means of raising government finance through sovereign issues, and as a way of companies obtaining funding through the offer of corporate Sukuk. Beginning modestly in 2000 with total 3 Sukuk worth $336 millions the total number of Sukuk by the end of 2007 has reached to 244 with over US$ 75 billion funds under management. Dr. Shariq summarizes the growth of Sukuk in following table.

 

Year Sukuk Size (USD million) Number of Sukuk
1990 30.00 1
2000 336.30 3
2001 780.00 4
2002 985.83 9
2003 5717.06 36
2004 7209.53 67
2005 12033.76 89
2006 48114.82 225
2007 75538.70 244
2008 32242.16 156
Total 182988.16 834

Recent studies about Sukuk at http://online.wsj.com/ indicates that although by recently the Sukuk market has managed to come back modestly, but only for higher corporate issuers. IFIS data show that so far this year, more than $7.6 billion of Sukuk have been issued. Almost all this year's fund-raisers have been governments or government-related, the overwhelming majority from Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia. The Middle Eastern market that drove the pre-2007 boom has also sprung into life this month with a $500 million issue for the government of Bahrain, which was boosted to $750 million because of strong demand. Thus there is no harm if GoI study the feasibility of innovating Islamic products to consolidate public finance in India.

Scope of Islamic Bond in India:

Since India houses second largest Muslim population of the world, it is expected that at least 20% Indian Muslims who are economically better off and desperately looking for real Islamic investments would grab it with enthusiasm. Unfortunately so far India has yet to launch any real Islamic bond or Mutual fund because somehow all the so called ethical mutual fund have been mixing equity funds with debts.

Moreover unofficial sources indicates that considering the higher growth rate of India, some larger Islamic banks and financial institutions like Islamic Development Bank, Dubai Islamic Bank and others desire to invest in Indian infrastructure but do not find suitable opportunities. So, we find the scope to study the prospects of Islamic Bond (Sukuk) from GoI to finance infrastructures.

Sector-wise Projected Investment for the Eleventh Plan

(Rs crore at 2006–07 prices)

Sectors Projected investment for 11th five year Plan
Rs. crore Shares (%)
  1. Electricity (incl. NCE)
666,525 32.42
  1. Roads and Bridges
314,152 15.28
  1. Telecommunication
258,439 12.57
  1. Railways (incl. MRTS)
261,808 12.73
  1. Irrigation (incl. Watershed)
253,301 12.32
  1. Water Supply and Sanitation
143,730 6.99
  1. Ports
87,995 4.28
  1. Airports
30,968 1.51
  1. Storage
22,378 1.09
  1. Gas
16,855 0.82
Total (Rs crore) 2,056,150 100

Data Source: http://planningcommission.nic.in/

Fiscal deficits can be reduced by the Sukuk funds:

Since returns to Sukuk holders comes from the actual returns from the project there is no chance of any interest burden on the economy. In case there is any loss in the specified project that will also be duly shared by the Sukuk holders. Thus Sukuk finance negates any possibility of interest burden on the economy and removes the chances of fiscal deficit due to interest payments on borrowed debts to finance infrastructural needs of the economy.

We have higher revenue expenditures due to higher debt servicing ratio total expenditure. The problem is also that capital expenditure is much behind the target and growth rate can’t be foster if we lack infrastructure. Thus while we need to stimulate the economy, it is better to introduce Sukuk by Indian Government as it would not only help building infrastructure, increase capital expenses and stimulate the economy, but also reduce the revenue deficits, debt servicing ratio and also revenue deficits.

Financing the deficit through more of subsidized bank loans is creating problems for the banks to reduce lending rates for private sector; as a result the private sector are getting lower amount of credits at higher costs. Besides the recent global recession, this hardening credit supply is adversely affecting the growth rate of agriculture and manufacturing industry by witnessing negative growth rates in during last 6 months. Thus deficit finance is not helping majority of Indian workforce as agriculture and manufacturing collectively provide livelihood to around 63% workers. So, to ensure foster and inclusive growth by way of providing sufficient and affordable credits to private sector, the increased flow of subsidized bank loans to GoI should be reduced otherwise private sector will continue to suffer and we may not be able to attain desirable growth rate even by increasing the fiscal deficits to stimulate the economy.

Since Sukuk is bounded with religious faith, the economic rationality is secondary aspect in decision making by the investors. The top priorities for Sukuk holders are to ensure that –

1. The returns are Halal (legal according to Islamic ethics) and investments will be used for building potential infrastructures for national development, thus the investments and returns may draw tax incentives as well which may stand as compensation against lower rate of returns.
2. The investments are meant for legal share (proportionate ownership) in the infrastructure.
3. There would not be any fraud or cheating by the fund managers and the investments would not be spent for promoting unethical and unlawful activities (as prohibited by Islamic ethics).
4. The investments will be in safe hands to carefully develop the assets and not manipulate it.
5. Even if the rate of returns are low as compared to market returns on other investments, the advantage of earning Halal income, tax incentives on investments upon national infrastructure would be some compensatory advantages to the Sukuk holders.

Since all sorts of returns on Sukuk are free from interest and does not exceed to the actual asset value, whatever is paid as returns to Sukuk holders is to pay from the actual earnings from the asset created by that particular investment. There is no need to borrow any debt to pay Sukuk returns or repay the whole Shukuk funds because all the Shukuk holders collectively own the asset. They will thus proportionately gain or loose according to appreciation or decline in the value of that particular asset.

Indian Institute of Islamic Infrastructure Funds (IIIIF):

It is desirable that the GoI set an autonomous financial corporation as ‘Indian Institute of Islamic Infrastructure Funds’ (IIIIF) to grab the national and international market of Shariah Funds and mobilize adequate funds for the infrastructural investments in India. If IIIIF succeeds soliciting cooperation with leading Islamic investment and development banks around the world, hopefully we may not need debt based receipts for deficit finance especially to meet the infrastructural requirements in India. The services of such banks may be solicited through GoI securities with assured lease rent after completion of particular infrastructure projects. Once India manages to mobilize project based Islamic Infrastructure funds, with such funds specific borrowed debts may be repaid to reduce the debt burdens.

Based on the projection by the Planning Commission of India, the estimated requirements of infrastructure investment is Rs. 20,56,150 crores. Considering the commercial aspects of different sectors, it is expected that IIIIF may help us arrange 93% of the total requirements amounting Rs. 19,12,420 crores for 11th five year plan’s infrastructural needs. Only the investment need of water supply and sanitation amounting Rs. 1,43,730 may not be sellable otherwise infrastructure projects of all other sectors seems sellable through equity based Government securities by IIIIF upon which any specific amount as % of investment could be assured as returns in terms of lease rents after completion of the projects. IIIIF along with RBI and Ministry of Finance may design such equity based Government Securities (Sukuk). Further such securities may be traded in open market as RBI has recently framed policy for stripping and reconstitution of Government securities to enhance the trading scope of securities. However for Sukuk, there could be assured lease rent or dividend as rate of returns instead of interest.

Conclusion:

Islamic Finance in terms of Sukuk may help India raise required infrastructure investment funds for the Government and the corporate sector. It may solve the most threatening challenge of our economy by providing equity funds for infrastructure against Government Securities enabling GoI reduce its fiscal deficit after repaying borrowed debts for capital expenditures through equity funds; and also by arranging equities for the corporate sector. Wish the proposed IIIIF may reduce the fiscal deficit allowing India attain foster and inclusive growth as it carries following promising features –

1. Reduce the fiscal deficit of India even if our revenue receipts declines and we need to increase the plan capital expenditures to stimulate the economy.
2. Help India save amount up to 6% of our GDP we pay as interest over debt receipts.
3. Enable GoI to repay debt receipts borrowed for financing the infrastructure investments.
4. Provide desirable equity fund for the corporate sector at a time when external financial resources are dried up and the cost of domestic bank credits are not affordable.
5. Once GoI succeeds arranging sufficient infrastructure funds through Sukuk and repays debts borrowed for capital expenditures, it would reduce the load of public finance on domestic banks thus enable them to reduce the cost on credits specified under PSA or for private sector enterprises.

There could be many more significances of IIIIF if we resolve it without any prejudice for the sake of national interest.

Syed Zahid Ahmad can be contacted at(aicmeu@yahoo.com)