No Deficit Of Confidence As FinMin Puts SC Verdict Behind

New Delhi, Sept 17: | Updated: Sep 18 2003, 05:30am hrs
Putting up a brave front after the Supreme Court (SC) nailed big ticket disinvestment, the finance ministry (FinMin) said disinvestment targets would be missed but expenditure control, rising non-tax receipts and improved tax compliance would take care of fiscal deficit management. The disinvestment target was set at Rs 13,200 crores and till now only Rs 1,100 crore had been realised.

FinMin top brass including chief economic advisor Ashok Lahiri, secretaries in the department of economic affairs (DEA) Pradipto Ghosh, BP Misra and D Swarup, admitted: Yes, we will fall short of the disinvestment target. Dr Lahiri told mediapersons, There is going to be some negative impact, when asked about the impact of the SC verdict asking the government to take approval from Parliament before going ahead with sale of equity in the two oil public sector undertakings (PSUs) Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL). However, FinMin expressed confidence that fiscal deficit would be kept within the targeted level of 5.6 per cent of gross domestic product or Rs Rs 1,53,637 crore during 2003-04.

The FinMin is now focussing on alternate strategy for fiscal deficit management. There has been an uptrend for non-tax receipts, direct and indirect tax compliance has gone up, there is a leash on expenditure. Last year expenditure control resulted in a saving of Rs 13,000 crore, Mr Swarup said.

Fiscal deficit came down to about Rs 52,237 crore till August, which is 34 per cent of the budgeted Rs 1,53,637 crore for 2003-04.

The fiscal deficit, which was Rs 52,518 crore till July or 34.2 per cent of the budgeted amount, came down further mainly on account of marginally higher tax collection, robust growth in non-tax receipts and squeeze in spendings, cash management systems in various ministries.

The fiscal deficit till August works out to 1.9 per cent of GDP compared to 5.6 per cent for the entire fiscal.

The revenue deficit in the first five months was slightly higher at 54.5 per cent of the budget estimate compared to 52.5 per cent in the year-ago period, Mr Swarup said. Tax collection was up marginally to Rs 62,491 crore in the first five months of this fiscal compared to Rs 62,325 crore in the same period last fiscal, mainly due to high refunds to taxpayers.

Gross tax collection was up by over 10 per cent at Rs 85,000 crore till August this fiscal compared to Rs 77,000 crore in the same period last fiscal. This growth is short of the targeted 13-14 per cent, Mr Swarup said but added the government hoped to make up for the shortfall in the later part of the fiscal.

Direct tax collection was lower by 0.5 per cent at Rs 14,463 crore in the five months compared to Rs 14,541 crore in April-August 2002-03, Mr Swarup said.

Indirect tax collection was, however, higher at 0.5 per cent at Rs 48,028 crore in the five months, compared to Rs 47,784 crore in the year ago period.