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New Delhi: Increase in the capital expenditure provisions for 2020-21 in the Budget is an "optical illusion" and that for the next fiscal is "excessively optimistic and proforma", former finance secretary Subhash Chandra Garg said on Thursday.     

In a blogpost titled 'Higher Capital is Optical Illusion', Garg claimed the capital expenditure headline number of 4.39 lakh crore in the revised estimates for 2020-21 is an "optical illusion".        

He pointed out that Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman highlighted in her Budget speech a massive increase of 34.5 per cent in the capital expenditure budget estimates of year 2021-22 (BE 21-22) to 5.54 lakh crore from Rs 4.12 lakh crore in BE 20-21.       

The revised estimates (RE) of capital expenditure for FY 2020-21 have also gone up to 4.39 lakh crore, recording an increase of 6.55 per cent.

"Increase in the capex provisions for FY 20-21 is optical illusion and for FY21-22 excessively optimistic and proforma," he said.      

According to Garg, a closer scrutiny of capital expenditure of Railways for 2020-21 reveals large revenue expenditure disguised as capital expenditure, which creates the optical illusion of higher capex in the fiscal.  

Elaborating on the point, he said capital expenditure under all the regular heads of Railways for 2020-21 has heavily under-performed during the year.

Capex for the new lines' construction has reduced from 12,000 crore to only 929 crore, for gauge conversion from 2,250 crore to 26 crore, for rolling stock from 5,787 crore to 2,004 crore, for track renewals from 10,599 crore to nil and so on, Garg said.      

"However, the government from General Budget gave a 'Special Loan for Covid Related Resource Gap' of 79,398 crore to Railways to provide liquidity support to railways to meet its losses in the current year and also for 'liquidating adverse balance in the public account' of Railways for the year 2019-20," he said.

Garg noted that if the 'capital expenditure' of 'Special loan for Covid related resource gap', which is a spurious capital expenditure, is eliminated from the capital expenditure provision of 108,398 crore in the RE, the actual capex of Railways for FY20-21 comes down to only 29,000 crore.

"Excluding the provision of the Special Loan of 79,398 crore brings down the RE20-21 capital expenditure to 359,765 crore from the BE20-21 provision of 439,163 crore," he said.     

The former finance secretary further said there is another loan item of 12,000 crore in the Budget document which has also added to the capital expenditure of the Centre.

Loans of 12,000 crore have been given to the states under the budget head transfer to states, he said.

Excluding this item, the real revised capital expenditure estimate comes down to 347,765 crore, Garg added.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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