RBI PANEL PROPOSES BUDGET LAW 

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By FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT in Mumbai
  • Published 4.07.01
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Mumbai, July 4 :    Mumbai, July 4:  An advisory group constituted by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on fiscal transparency has called for more disclosures with regard to the Union budget, while suggesting that the basic principles of budget management be embodied in a general budget system law with constitutional status. The group observed that although clear budget proposals have evolved over time, the country does not have any budget system law. Here, it recommended the Centre should consider amplifying the scope of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Bill (FRBM) to include the essential elements of a budget law. Regarding areas in the budget where more transparency is essential, the group said a review of the current policy on disclosure of contingent liabilities is necessary, with the objective of moving towards fuller disclosure. Such contingent liabilities, it observed, could include government guarantees on dues to all LIC policy holders, liability risks arising out of issues such as India Millennium Deposits and the implicit burden for recapitalisation of public sector banks. The group said while the absence of data on forward projections is a major drawback, the projection of major categories of expenditure and revenue, two years from now, is feasible and should be implemented. It said the budget should also contain information on the government's equity in public sector enterprises and outstanding loans to these enterprises. On the issue of transparency at the state level, the group said fiscal practices here are behind the standards achieved at the central government level and there are gaps in comparison with the requirements of the Code on Fiscal Transparency. Here, it said while some states have brought out a common budget format, these and others should disseminate more information on fiscal indicators that include revenue deficit, primary deficit, tax revenue, interest payments, subsidies and contingent liabilities including guarantees. The group also noted that the most important deficiency relates to the prevalence of quasi-fiscal activities (QFAs) undertaken by the banking system and non-financial public sector enterprises, which are not transparently identified and quantified. While the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Bill proposes ending this practice at the end of three years, it said the most important QFA in this context is the operation of the oil pool account, which has allowed large deficits to pile up. If the oil pool account was not abolished for any reason later, the deficit incurred on this account should be reported in budget documents in the interest of transparency, it added. On open budget preparation, execution and reporting, the group said there was no system of mid-year reporting to Parliament at present. However, this deficiency would be addressed by the FRBM Bill.