Throwing light on the role of off-budget borrowings, explain how it helps the government in raising funds for various expenditures. Also examine its desirability.

Off-budget borrowings refer to government borrowings not accounted in budget or fiscal deficit. These are borrowed by government agencies and/or PSUs from market or other innovative sources. E.g. FCI’s borrowings from market.

Role in helping government raise funds:

  • Enhance fiscal space of the government, as off-budget borrowings are not accounted in the fiscal deficit.
  • It helps to diversify sources of funding. E.g. FCI borrowing from market or bonds, etc.
  • It allows the credit ratings to not get affected by the increased borrowings.
  • Keep separate, the debt of government from its agencies/PSUs.

However, the desirability of off-budget borrowings has been questioned and criticized, as:

  • It Reduces transparency in government’s fiscal policy. E.g. CAG pointed out that the fiscal deficit for the year 2017-18 was approximately 3.5%, but in reality it was close to 6%.
  • It violates FRBM’s timelines through manipulative innovation and funding.
  • It escapes the parliamentary scrutiny as borrowings under budget are scrutinized by Parliament, while off- budget borrowings are not.

Way forward:

The 15th finance commission recommended the government to do away with off-budget borrowings for increased transparency and accountability. Strengthening bond market could be an alternative to fund needs.

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