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P Chidambaram just passed fiscal deficit buck to next government

Tuesday, 18 February 2014 - 6:00am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA
Accounting jugglery and subsidy rollover helped the govt to contain fiscal defict at 4.6%.
  • P Chidambaram

Some accounting jugglery by the North Block to bring the fiscal deficit below the "red mark" of 4.8% – as finance minister P Chidambaram preferred to calling it – cannot be denied, experts said.

Otherwise, how is it that the fiscal deficit, which had touched almost 92% of the budgeted amount in December itself, is projected to come down at 4.6% of the GDP even when all the revised revenue estimates are down from the budgeted estimates for 2013-14.

Against the budgeted revenues of Rs 12,35,870 crore, the government expects to get Rs 11,58,906 crore. For 2014-15, meanwhile, the government's fiscal deficit target is 4.1%.

With downgrade from rating agencies looming large on the government, the trick that has been resorted to is rolling over oil subsidy to the next financial year and the curtailing the Plan expenditure. A dent of at least Rs 105,000 crore to the fiscal numbers will not be shown in the current year's account.

Finance minister P Chidambaram has rolled over at least Rs 35,000 crore of payables to the oil marketing companies on the oil subsidy front to the next fiscal. In effect, the next government, which will be formed after the May elections, is set to bear the brunt of the amount which is being carried forward.

Justifying the move, Chidamdaram said, "There is no rollover except under one head – oil subsidy. Last year and also year before that, the subsidy of the fourth quarter was rolled over to the first quarter of the next year. I brought forward Rs 48,000 crore from last year. So technically I have right to roll over the entire amount from the last year. But I have rolled over only Rs 35,000 crore."

Chidambaram also claimed that the cut of Rs 75,000 crore against the total Plan and Non Plan expenditure of Rs 15,90,434 crore is actually miniscule. However, the amount has been cut from the Plan Expenditure component, which was budgeted at Rs 555,322 crore. The government has brought it down to Rs 475,532 crore in the revised estimates.

BJP leader Sushil Modi told dna, "This will heavily impact the welfare schemes and the poor states will get affected most."

Modi, who was also on the GST panel of state chief ministers, slammed the government for the failure on the GST front. "The government does not have the strength to do such a huge tax reform in the last leg of their term. They had at least seven years' time to implement the schemes. There are leaving behind the compensation for the central sales tax to the tune of at least Rs 50,000 crore. Who is responsible for that?"

On GST, Chidambaram said in his Budget speech, "I am disappointed that we have not yet been able to introduce GST. I leave it to you to answer the question, who blocked the GST when the agreement on the game-changing tax reforms was around the corner?"

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