Bengal Finance Minister writes to Sitharaman urging her to convene GST Council meeting

PTI Kolkata | Updated on November 14, 2020

West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra

Seeks discussion on Centre’s borrowings to meet collection shortfall

West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra has written to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman urging her to convene a meeting of the GST Council for discussions on the Centre’s borrowings to meet the collection shortfall.

In the letter written on November 13, Mitra said many states had argued at the GST Council meetings held in August and October that the Central Government borrow from RBI’s special window to meet the gap between protected revenue at 14 per cent growth rate and GST collections.

Towards this, Mitra said West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had also written to Sitharaman in this regard on October 10.

He said it had been unanimously agreed at the meetings to extend the cess collection period beyond 2022 to meet debt servicing by the borrower.

However, Mitra stated that the Centre had come up with a new proposal by dint of which it will borrow two-thirds of the shortfall pegged at Rs 1.10 lakh crore till January 2021, while the remaining Rs 72,000 crore shortfall would be received by the states only after June 2022.

He said the new proposal also provided an additional borrowing limit of 0.5 per cent of GSDP to states to facilitate borrowings of Rs 72,000 crore.

This, he said, amounted to the Centre borrowing only two-thirds of the shortfall and states the remaining portion, if required from the market.

According to Mitra, borrowings of Rs 1.10 lakh crore from the RBI special window will have no bearing on the fiscal deficit of the Centre, which will be entirely funded by the cess collections.

Mitra said the Centre was able to borrow from the special window at five per cent while the states had to pay a higher 6.8 per cent, which implies a substantial debt servicing burden for them.

In this context, Mitra said due to the interest rate differential, the Centre should borrow the entire amount from the special window.

He said due to the pandemic and cyclone Amphan, which battered West Bengal, the state was already in acute financial stress. Mitra said the Centre should convene a meeting of the council to reach a unanimous decision and thus uphold the spirit of cooperative federalism.

Published on November 14, 2020

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