ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Fiscal Federalism and Regional Inequality in India

In all federal structures, the composing units are not self-sufficient financially. But, in India, the economic dependence of states on the centre is rather high because of widespread disparities in their levels of economic development. The federal transfers to the states through the Finance Commission, Planning Commission and centrally-sponsored schemes are investigated. The role of the union government in equitable direct investment, subsidy, and private investment policy for unbiased regional development is also underlined . The data proves that although the Finance Commission’s transfers are progressive, the share of devolution for low-income states is gradually decreasing. Unfortunately, all other transfers and efforts by the centre are regressive to address the regional inequality issues.

Should States Target a 3% Fiscal Deficit?

India’s current fiscal rules target a 3% fiscal deficit for the central and state governments. Though states have largely adhered to their borrowing ceilings, subnational debt is proliferating. A significant reduction in subnational borrowing is required to stabilise the states’ debt around the desired level of 20% of gross domestic product. Symmetry should not be forced on central and state borrowing flows, given their widely divergent levels of debt stocks.

Karnataka's Changing Fiscal Landscape

Analysing the second Karnataka budget since the Fourteenth Finance Commission award, it is noted that, as assured, more fiscal space is made available to the state government. With greater untied funds, the state has budgeted for higher capital expenditure in some key areas--urban development, police, and tribal welfare--even as it failed to build capacity for power generation, and has introduced too many schemes with too little funds allocated to each.

Finance Commission

The quiet indifference with which the appointment of the Twelfth Finance Commission has been greeted in academic and state government circles bears testimony to the decline of the Finance Commission as a constitutional institution. Against this backdrop it is useful to try to understand the true intentions of the framers of the Constitution and to bring out the many ways in which powerful sections of society have manipulated the composition, terms of reference and even the recommendations of successive Finance Commissions to serve sectional and regional interests.

State Finances in India: Issues and Challenges

Sharp deterioration in state finances during the last decade - as evidenced by sharp increases in revenue, fiscal and primary deficits, increases in their indebtedness and contingent liabilities, and decline in capital and maintenance expenditures - has been a matter of serious concern to policy-makers. Low buoyancy of central transfers and spillover of central pay revisions have had the most adverse impact on state finances. However, the states' own fiscal performance has also seen sharp deterioration. On the transfer system, the scheme proposed by the ministry of finance attempts to link a portion of transfers to fiscal reforms. There are serious design issues in the scheme. It is not certain whether the scheme will be effective either. The paper details the areas of reform the states should focus on to impart efficiency and improve revenue productivity and prioritisation and compression of unproductive expenditures.

Federal Fiscal Relations : Big Step Back

A correspondent writes: At the meeting of the Inter-State Council (INC) the states are reported to have won a number of points, the most important one being that in the appointment of governors consultation with the chief minister would be mandatory. Also it was agreed that taxation would be transferred to the Concurrent List
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