Citing fiscal strains, Expenditure Department advises against PMGKAY extension

It is not advisable to continue the Pradhan Mantri Garia Kalyan Anna Yoajana (PMGKAY) beyond its present extension (till September) both on “grounds of food security and on fiscal grounds” given that it is as it is “far beyond the need of non-pandemic times”, the Department of Expenditure under the Ministry of Finance has stated. Huge increase in fertiliser subsidy burden (both urea & non-urea), re-introduction of subsidy on cooking gas, reduction of excise duty on petrol, diesel and customs duty on various products have created a serious fiscal situation, it said.

“The budgeted fiscal deficit at 6.40 % of GDP was itself extremely high by historical standards, and deterioration therein poses a risk of serious adverse consequences. It is vital that major subsidy increases/tax reductions are not done. In particular, it is not advisable to continue the PMGKAY beyond its present extension, both on grounds of food security and on fiscal grounds. As it is, each family is getting 50 kg of grains, 25 kg at a nominal price of Rs.2/Rs.3, and 25 kg free. This is far beyond the need at a non-pandemic time,” the Expenditure Department said.

In March, the government extended the PMGKAY scheme for another six months till September 2022. The government has spent approximately Rs 2.60 lakh crore till March and another Rs 80,000 crore will be spent till September 2022, taking the total expenditure for PM-GKAY to nearly Rs 3.40 lakh crore. The scheme covers nearly 80 crore beneficiaries providing 5kg of foodgrains per month for free under this scheme. The additional free grains are over and above the normal quota provided under the NFSA at a subsidised rate of Rs 2-3 per kg.

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The Budget had pegged the fiscal deficit at 6.4 per cent of the GDP or Rs 16.61 lakh crore. In April, the first month of the current fiscal, the deficit stood at Rs 74,846 crore – or 4.5 per cent of the full-year target. In 2021-22, the deficit was 6.71 per cent or Rs 15.86 lakh crore, lower than the revised estimates of 6.9 per cent on better tax revenue mop up.

Fertiliser subsidy is estimated to rise to Rs 2.15 lakh crore from the budgeted level of Rs 1.05 lakh crore for 2022-23, having already seen an outgo of Rs 60,939.23 crore for the first six months of this fiscal. The government’s finances are also strained after the recent excise duty cuts, which are estimated to cost Rs 1 lakh crore. The cooking gas subsidy to the poor is estimated to cost the government Rs 6,100 crore, while the revenue loss from the recalibration in customs duty on iron and steel and plastic is expected to be Rs 10,000-15,000 crore.

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