Real money saver: ministries asked to limit schemes
Finance Ministry orders them to 'prioritise' govt-aided activities.
New Delhi: The country will aim at scrapping irrelevant government schemes and reduce subsidies in the next fiscal year, the Finance Ministry has said, as it grapples to keep a lid on spending and rein in the fiscal deficit.
The government's stimulus spending to revive a slowing economy has strained its finances and could take the fiscal deficit to a 16-year high of 6.8 percent of GDP in 2009/10, to be funded by a record 4.51-trillion-rupee market borrowing.
In a budget circular for 2010/11, the Finance Ministry asked all ministries and departments to "prioritise" government-aided schemes and activities.
"Departments should ensure that all schemes that have been discontinued, do not find mention in RE (revised estimate of budget) for 2009/10," it said.
"Similarly schemes that are not to continue beyond the year 2009/10 should not be included for BE (budget estimate) 2010/11."
It also said the ministries need to follow instructions on bringing down subsidies through improvement in operational efficiency and better targeting.
Ministries also need to give details of government guarantees on repayment of loans, tax revenues shown on books but not realised, and non-tax revenues that are yet to be collected.
"These kind of measures will possibly see some kind of decline in the fiscal deficit," said Jyotinder Kaur, an economist at HDFC Bank.
But it may not be enough to solve the problem of high fiscal deficit entirely, she added.
The fiscal deficit in the year ended March 2009 stood at 6.2 percent of GDP.
In July, the government said it would aim to bring down the fiscal deficit to 5.5 percent of GDP in 2010/11 and further to 4 percent in 2011/12.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said high level of fiscal deficit is unsustainable and the government was committed to returning to the path of fiscal prudence at the earliest.
Last week, the finance ministry asked all ministries to reduce non-plan expenditure by 10 percent as part of an austerity drive.