January 26, 2013

West Bengal emerges as top borrower through RBI window

RBI data show state has raised Rs 17,300 crore through state development loan

Namrata Acharya / Kolkata

BUSINESS STANDARD, January 25, 2013, 13:41 IST

In continuation with the brisk borrowing spree, West Bengal has emerged as the top borrower this financial year too.

Data from Reserve Bank of India (RBI) show, West Bengal has raised Rs 17,300 crore through state development loan, so far in the financial year. This year, the state government has a market borrowing limit of Rs 22,821 crore, which leaves Rs 5,521 crore for the next two months for the present financial year.

Notably, in spite of a cushion of Rs 5,521 crore for the next two months, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, has been ruing that the state has been denied to raise debt.

“They (Centre) had allowed the Left to make so much debt, but they have been denying us the same. Why are you trying to snatch away our livelihood? The people of Bengal will have to assert their rights and demand that the centre stop taking away all the money,” Banerjee had recently said at a public meeting.

West Bengal is seeking a moratorium on interest and repayment totaling Rs 22,000 crore on its debt for the next three years, and formulation of a debt restructuring exercise over the interim period. The debt restructuring should include debt elimination, increasing repayment tenure and reducing interest rate on loans.

“Stop taking the interest. We want justice,” the chief minister had recently said.  

However, the opposition Left Front government has been quick to retort, when yesterday, Asim Dasgupta, former finance minister, West Bengal, said the burgeoning debt of the state  was on account of higher expenditure, rather than old debt.

"The new government has been making some misleading statements. If Rs 25,000 crore is spent on debt repayment and we add Rs 41,000 crore paid towards salary and pension, there would still be Rs 34,000 crore left out of the Rs 1 lakh crore receipt," said Dasgupta.

"The people of the state would like to know if there is extra-budgetary expenditure or are they unable to provide utilization certificates," he said.

West Bengal's debt burden of according to the last Budget document was Rs 2.08 lakh crore. The outstanding debt of the government is set to increase to Rs 2.26 lakh crore in the present fiscal, making it one of the most indebted state in terms of tax to GSDP ratio.

Last financial year, West Bengal availed of relaxation of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act  twice, pushing the borrowing of the state to Rs 22,423 crore.

The continual deterioration by the state of finances is also evident from a recent report on State Finances: Study of Budgets 2012-13.

In 2011-12 (RE), all states were able to contain their interest payment to revenue receipt ratio (IP-RR) to 15%, except in case of Gujarat, Kerala, West Bengal and Punjab. West Bengal had the highest IP-RR ratio at 27.20%, with Chhattisgarh recording the lowest at 4.5%.

According to the state budget document, this financial year, West Bengal's revenue receipt is projected to be  Rs 76,943 crore and expenditure is Rs 83,801 crore leaving a huge revenue deficit of  Rs 6,585 crore.  

West Bengal's expense on salaries alone is set to increase from Rs 28,899 crore to Rs 31,184 crore by the end of this fiscal, which is about 37% of the projected expenditure of the government.

Similarly, the cost of pension and other retirement benefits is projected to increase from Rs 8,385 crore to Rs 9,582 crore.

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