Govt cuts expenditure limit for March quarter as revenue collection falls

Faced with a shortfall in revenue collection, the government has initiated austerity measures by revising downwards the expenditure limit for January-March period of the ongoing financial year.

The government has asked all departments to restrict the expenses to 25 per cent of the Budget Estimate (BE) in January-March.

"Considering the fiscal position of the government in the current financial year, it has been decided to cap the expenditure in the last quarter and last month of the current financial year," an office memorandum issued recently by Budget division of the finance ministry said.

Expenditure in the March quarter is to be restricted to 25 per cent of the BE as against an earlier limit of 33 per cent, while expenditure in the last month should not exceed 10 per cent as compared to a 15 per cent limit earlier, it said.

During the first two months of the quarter, the expenditure should not exceed beyond 15 per cent from the existing criteria of 18 per cent of the BE, it said.

"In case of any expenditure through re-allocation of savings within the Grant requiring prior approval of Parliament, expenditure may be incurred only after obtaining the approval of Parliament through Supplementary Demands for Grants," it said.

Any additional expenditure may be incurred after having obtained the approval of Parliament, it added.

"Ministries and Departments are requested to observe the above guidelines strictly and regulate the expenditure accordingly in the current financial year," it said.

However, it has been clarified that items of large expenditure would continue to be governed by the guidelines issued previously.

The last revision in expenditure guidelines took place in 2017 when it was decided to restrict the expenditure to 33 per cent and 15 per cent in the last quarter and last month, respectively of the financial year.

Latest revision in expenditure cut comes at a time when there is pressure on meeting the fiscal deficit target of 3.3 per cent for the current fiscal.

The country's fiscal deficit hit 102.4 per cent of 2019-20 Budget Estimate at Rs 7.2 lakh crore at the end of October.

There is a widespread speculation that fiscal deficit target may be relaxed because of the lower-than-estimated tax collection and the subdued non-tax mop-up, especially disinvestment.

Gross direct tax collection increased by 5 per cent till November. The finance ministry has a 15 per cent growth in direct tax collection at Rs 13.80 lakh crore for the current fiscal.

With regard to indirect tax, Goods and Services Tax remains a matter of concern for various reasons.

The Central GST collection fell short of the Budget Estimate by nearly 40 per cent during April-November 2019-20, according to government data.

The actual CGST collection during April-November stood at Rs 3,28,365 crore, while the Budget Estimate is of Rs 5,26,000 crore for these months.

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