Economists raise need to look on borrowing requirements of public sector


New Delhi, May 9 (UNI) The Finance Commission has discussed with eminent economists about a need to adopt a total view on the borrowing requirements of the consolidated public sector saying this should encompass off-budget transactions, borrowings of the public sector undertakings and contingent liabilities of both the Union and state governments.

The economists, during the meet held on Wednesday, also took up issues of debt sustainability, fiscal transparency and proper coordination of fiscal and monetary policies.

They were of the view that the issue — whether the increased tax devolution by the 14th Finance Commission has led to improvements in the social spending of state governments – should be carefully examined.

There is possibly a mismatch between the demand and supply of state development loans, which can affect the cost of borrowings of state governments in the next five years. Given the maturity profile of state loans, there can also be repayment pressure on these loans during the period of the 15th Finance Commission.

They also discussed about indications that the fiscal deficit to GSDP ratio of the states taken as a whole is gradually declining, after the spike seen in 2015-16 and 2016-17.

However, states are at vastly different stages of debt consolidation. Reaching the FRBM targets would involve an extremely difficult adjustment path for a few states. It is important that the Union Government and state governments as a whole, consolidate their debt position.

According to some economists, expenditure adjustments alone cannot bring about the required adjustment; fresh revenue-raising efforts should also be made. Proceeds from auctioning of mines could be a potential source of revenue.

The quality of budgeting needs to improve. Governments should not budget for a low fiscal deficit, knowing fully well that it cannot be achieved. Projections of revenues from GST are tricky, but not impossible if one can work with the available data, the economists added.

Given the shift from the use of 1971 population to 2001 population, some economists pointed towards the need for instituting an incentive structure in devolution. The composition of population in terms of proportion of elderly in population is becoming significantly different across states.

Some economists urged Finance Commission to consider reinstating the system of specific-purpose grants to ensure development of social sectors and other sectors that require handholding. Finance Commission may also consider the need for achieving comparable service delivery standards across the country as its guiding principle.

A suggestion was raised for Finance Commission to consider giving priority to the development of a very robust statistical system in the country in its recommendations.

Economists present at the meeting were Rupa Rege Nitsure, Saugata Bhattacharya, Prachi Mishra, Samiran Chakraborty, Pranjul Bhandari, Ashu Suyash, Anjan Deb Bose, Naresh Takkar, Soumya Kanti Ghosh, Ajit Ranade, Ashima Goyal and S L Shetty.


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