Indian government to borrow a record 16 trillion rupees in fiscal 2023/24 - Reuters poll

By Vivek Mishra BENGALURU (Reuters) - The Indian government will borrow a record 16 trillion rupees ($198 billion) in the fiscal year to March 2024, according to a

Reuters poll of economists, who said infrastructure spending and fiscal discipline ought to be its highest budget priorities. The federal government's gross indebtedness has

more than doubled in the past four years as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has spent heavily to cushion the economy from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and to

provide relief to the poor. The Feb. 1 budget will be the last full-fledged one before national elections in 2024 and before elections in several large populous states that

will be key tests for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). But a fall in tax revenue and expected slowing economic growth next fiscal year will limit the government's

ability to cut borrowing in the near term. Gross borrowing next fiscal year is expected to hit 16.0 trillion rupees, up from an estimated 14.2 trillion rupees in 2022/23,

according to the median forecast of 43 economists. Predictions were in a narrow range of 14.8 trillion to 17.2 trillion rupees. Even if it is at the lower end of the range,

2023/2024 gross borrowing would easily be the highest on record. When Modi's BJP swept to power in 2014, the country's gross annual borrowing was just 5.92 trillion

rupees. "The key reason gross borrowing is going to be still quite high is the repayment burden," said Dhiraj Nim, economist at ANZ. "The government borrowed a lot in the

last few years to have funds for the pandemic, which means the repayment burden will now be quite elevated for several years."