Austerity drive to cut wasteful expenditure: Pranab
New Delhi: Justifying the government’s austerity drive, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday said the restrictions on foreign visits and other expenses are aimed at curbing wasteful expenditure and containing fiscal deficit.
“I sent a note (on austerity in government departments) and Prime Minister has approved in certain areas where I considered that wasteful expenditure should be avoided and that money should be deployed for developmental work,” he told a press conference.
Amidst increasing subsidy on food, fertiliser and fuel, the government on Monday asked ministries and departments to restrict foreign travel and refrain from holding meetings in five-star hotels with a view to reducing public expenditure.
The government has also advised the ministries not to buy new vehicles or create posts.
Mr. Mukherjee said while there is no concern on the revenue collection front, the subsidy bill of the government on crude oil may go up if prices continue to remain high.
Besides, the government may also have to shell out more to meet the subsidies on food and fertiliser.
“(So) I shall have to keep the target of the fiscal deficit… but surely I am interested to have some austerity measures to avoid the wasteful expenditures, but not productive expenditure,” he said.
The government proposes to keep the fiscal deficit at 4.6 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2011-12, down from 4.7 per cent in the previous fiscal.
The government spends about Rs 73,637 crore a year on fuel and fertiliser subsidies.
It is likely to spend about Rs 82,000 crore on food subsidy this fiscal and the bill may go up to Rs 95,000 crore once the National Food Security Act comes into play.
The government is expected to lose around Rs 36,000 crore during the current fiscal on account of duty cuts on petroleum products.
On the other hand, the government may find it difficult to mop up Rs 40,000 crore from sale of equity in the public sector companies.