Pay panel recommendations on salary hike pose risk to fiscal consolidation: Fitch

Pay hike poses risk to fiscal consolidation, says Fitch

Fitch Ratings said on Friday a proposed 23.6 per cent hike in salaries and pensions for about 10 million current and former government employees could hurt the country’s finances and underscore the weakness in its sovereign credit profile.

The pay hike proposed on Thursday by the government panel is smaller than past increases as the nation faces pressure to curb its fiscal deficit. It would add at least $15.43 billion to federal spending in 2016 – the first year of implementation – if accepted.

Fitch said the pay hike could challenge the government’s goal of achieving a fiscal deficit of 3.5 per cent in the year ending in March 2017, unless India can cut spending or raise revenues.

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“The planned wage increase is sufficient to add substantive challenges to achieving the planned medium-term consolidation targets,” Fitch said in a statement.

“Delaying an improvement in India’s fiscal position would underscore a longstanding weakness for the sovereign credit profile,” it added.

Fitch rates India “BBB-minus” with a “stable” outlook.

The credit agency said the government debt burden of nearly 65 per cent of gross domestic product was the highest among its “BBB-minus” rated countries, which have a median of 43 per cent of GDP .