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

Fourteenth Finance CommissionSubscribe to Fourteenth Finance Commission

Progressiveness of Finance Commission

The implications of the recommendations of the Fourteenth Finance Commission on finances of Bihar as a result of changes in the tied, untied and overall union devolution are identified. The data reveals that there is an increase in tax devolution, but its share in grants, plan and non-plan, has come down drastically, hardly reflecting any increase in the total resources transferred. In reality, there has been a decrease of 1.3 percentage points in the share of tax devolution for Bihar between Thirteenth and Fourteenth Finance Commissions. Along with the revenue loss due to liquor ban, this loss has huge financial implications for Bihar’s exchequer.

Indian Fiscal Federalism at the Crossroads

The abolition of the Planning Commission, the creation of the NITI Aayog, the constitutional amendment to introduce the goods and services tax, the establishment of the goods and services tax council, and the historically high tax devolution to the states based on the Fourteenth Finance Commission have changed the union–state fiscal relations fundamentally. The changing contours of union–state fiscal relations discussed in the context of the release of a recent book Indian Fiscal Federalism by Y V Reddy and G R Reddy are presented here.

Is the Special Category Status Really Dead?

Though the Fourteenth Finance Commission report gives an impression that the special category status given to some states has de facto been abolished, the reality is that the benefi ts enjoyed by these states remain well protected. The biggest flaw of the special category mechanism is that the benefits flow in perpetuity without any accountability or performance monitoring of the states. This has made them overwhelmingly dependent on central funding. It is therefore imperative to bring in more accountability into the mechanism of such liberal transfer of funds and their end use.

Emerging Issues in Union–State Fiscal Relations

The restructuring of non-Finance Commission Grants is an improvement when it comes to scheme-related transfers. However, when 10 schemes constitute 90% of core grants, there is further scope for rationalisation of these schemes. The implications of following a sustainable debt path under the new Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management framework in the budget indicate a larger fi scal correction at the state level vis-à-vis the union government.

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.

Underutilised Fiscal Space

The hike in tax devolution to states by the Fourteenth Finance Commission to give a larger fiscal space to the states has meant sharp cuts for centrally-sponsored schemes. Studying the case of Maharashtra, it is found that without adequate norms and yardsticks of development expenditure, the state has failed to exploit its fiscal potentials.

Evolving Centre–State Financial Relations

After the Fourteenth Finance Commission award, aggregate transfers as a percentage of gross domestic product has increased, while grants as a percentage of GDP has declined. The centre is resorting to cess and surcharges that are not shared with the states. This would mean denial of revenue to states, which goes against the spirit of the Constitution. Further, the states have a reduced untied fi scal space, with the union’s share in Centrally Sponsored Schemes in 2016–17 (BE) being reduced. Finally, in the absence of plan transfers, post 2017–18, the focus should be to develop a framework for non-fi nance commission grants to states which is predictable and certain.
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