Why government borrows off-budget, and how?
- Posted By
1st Feb, 2021
In order to restrict the fiscal deficit to a respectable number, “off-budget borrowing” is the easiest resort for the government.
What are ‘Off-Budget Borrowings’?
- Off-budget borrowings are loans that are taken not by the Centre directly, but by another public institution which borrows on the directions of the central government.
- Such borrowings are used to fulfil the government’s expenditure needs.
- But since the liability of the loan is not formally on the Centre, the loan is not included in the national fiscal deficit.
- This helps keep the country’s fiscal deficit within acceptable limits
How are off-budget borrowings raised?
- Implementing agencies: The government can ask an implementing agency to raise the required funds from the market through loans or by issuing bonds.
- For example, food subsidy is one of the major expenditures of the Centre.
- In the Budget presentation for 2020-21, the government paid only half the amount budgeted for the food subsidy bill to the Food Corporation of India.
- The shortfall was met through a loan from the National Small Savings Fund. This allowed the Centre to halve its food subsidy bill from Rs 1,51,000 crore to Rs 77,892 crore in 2020-21.
- Other PSUs: Other public sector undertakings have also borrowed for the government.
- For instance, public sector oil marketing companies were asked to pay for subsidised gas cylinders for Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana beneficiaries in the past.
- PSBs: Public sector banks are also used to fund off-budget expenses.
- For example, loans from PSU banks were used to make up for the shortfall in the release of fertiliser subsidy.
- It is essentially the gap between what the central government spends and what it earns.
- It is the level of borrowings by the Union government.
- This number is the most important metric to understand the financial health of any government’s finances.
How it is significant?
- This helps keep the country’s fiscal deficit within acceptable limits.
- Every year, the Finance Minister announces the quantum of funds that will be raised by the government by borrowing from the market.
- This amount and the interest due on it is reflected in the government debt.
If these numbers were included, what would the government fiscal deficit look like?
- The fiscal deficit will go up by Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 crore in absolute terms.