Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday expressed optimism that she might not have to alter Budget numbers because of Ukraine-Russia crisis. She also indicated that any call on giving relief through excise duty cut on petrol-diesel can be taken after considering various factors.

“I won’t quickly conclude that my numbers are under threat and I may have to quickly review my number... no, not yet. I don’t think, hopefully, there would be a need for it,” Sitharaman said in an interview to BusinessLine. The Budget was prepared with assumptions of crude oil at $75 a barrel, nominal GDP at 11.1 per cent and deflator of about 3 per cent. Now, crude is over $100 a barrel and it is threatening to dent GDP projections.

Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Finance Minister at an interview with Business Line in Chennai.

Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Finance Minister at an interview with Business Line in Chennai. | Photo Credit: BIJOY GHOSH

“We are ensuring that we look at alternative sources of crude. We don’t but any oil or natural gas at the moment from Russia. Globally, if there were to be a problem either with price or availability, we’ll have to take a look. But I don’t think at the moment we have a situation like that,” she said.

When asked when will government considering relief through cut in Central Excise Duty, Sitharaman said that there are so many factors to consider before taking a call on it. “I don’t know whether we have taken a position as yet. Again, we need to assess how it develops and then take a call. I am not suggesting we have taken a call to give it (relief through cutting the excise duty) or not to give it, but I am also conscious that If I give it now, you will immediately say it us because of poll prospects,” she said.

LIC IPO

There is also apprehension that present market condition is not very conducive to LIC IPO and the government might need to rework on that. When asked about this Sitharaman said “Now there’s a full-scale war. Therefore, I need to go back and review the situation. Ideally, I’d like to go ahead with it, because it is something we’ve planned for some time purely based on Indian considerations. But now if global considerations warrant that I need to look at it, I wouldn’t mind looking at it again.”

The government intends to come out with LIC IPO during second half of March.

NSE controversy

Sitharaman reiterated that the government’s effort would be to take the NSE-’Yogi’ controversy to the logical conclusion, even if it takes a long time. “It is not the political will or lack of it, but there are constraints that literally eat up time. Take Kingfisher’s case. As government, we have followed it up so many times. We present ourselves in foreign court and ask for extradition, it gets postponed once, a second time, a third time. It is escalated to a higher Court. These processes by their own nature take time,” she said.

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