NEW DELHI :
Expenditure secretary Girish Chandra Murmu is a 1985 batch Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer from the Gujarat cadre. In charge of the government’s coffers at a time when the government is facing a resource crunch, Murmu bats for higher revenue for the Centre under the 15th Finance Commission and defends the subdued expenditure growth in the latest budget. Edited excerpts of an interview:
There is no big jump in expenditure, especially on the capital expenditure side, possibly because of the revenue constraint. Don’t you think that will limit the growth stimulus this year?
Already we had provided expenditure growth of 14% from revised estimate of 2018-19 in the interim budget. Capital expenditure should not be viewed in an isolated manner. The public sector enterprises of our infrastructure ministries such as road, highways and railways raise a huge amount of money from the market. They don’t take any kind of grant from us. So, there is huge capital expenditure from their side also. Capital expenditure is ₹8.5 trillion including the government’s capital expenditure of ₹3.36 trillion. So, the government’s expenditure has not been compromised. What this government is talking about is to encourage private investment.
The government has faced criticism for underreporting its own expenditure. Your comment?
We raise our extra budgetary resources through agencies such as NABARD and HEFA. That we are minimising. Last year, it was ₹65,000 crore. This year, we have reduced it by ₹10,000 crore. We are slowly rationalising and trying to minimise this kind of spending where we have the liability of repaying the principal amount as well as the interest.
Does it include FCI borrowings?
No. FCI has its own balance sheet. They borrow through ways and means for procurements. We only give them subsidy for the difference between the public distribution system price and the market price.
Last year, the government provided ₹70,000 crore less to FCI for food subsidy.
Basically, that was for historical reasons. However, that is also now under control. This year, we don’t expect that much shortfall.
Is there further scope for rationalization of centrally sponsored and central sector schemes?
The demands for various programmes will go on for the current fiscal year. The 15th Finance Commission cycle is coming from next fiscal onwards. There is a thought that we require to realign our schemes so that it becomes more effective. We have to see if certain schemes can be discontinued or merged with some other schemes so that allocation to particular schemes substantially increases. We don’t want to cut down on overall expenditure, but we are trying to do better alignment.
The Jal Jeevan Mission has been announced in the budget. What will be the resource sharing pattern with state governments?
This year, we have provided ₹10,000 crore. The fine print has to be worked out. The resource sharing pattern with the states is yet to be finalized. Right now, the sharing pattern of resources for centrally sponsored schemes is 60-40 for the Centre and states respectively. However, that pattern may change under the 15th Finance Commission.
Is providing drinking water to all rural households by 2024 an achievable target when we are yet to provide houses to all rural households?
We are almost reaching the target on rural housing. Resources required for it should taper off and come down. I don’t think it is too ambitious. It is doable. This government’s speed is very high.
In cities also, we have not been able to provide tap water to all households?
Tap water is available in most cities except in the drought-affected cities.
What you are talking about isthe new colonies that are coming up. It is an administrative issue. Not a drinking water issue.