With just weeks before the Vote on Account to be table d in Parliament the expenditure numbers of the government are looking challenging.
The fiscal deficit has already touched 94 per cent of the full year target of Rs 5,42,499 crore between April- November 2013 and while the sluggish pace of revenue receipts is evident,movements in expenditure needs to be assessed carefully.
Total expenditure has crossed Rs 10,00,000 crore mark by November to 61.3 per cent of the full year target as against reaching just 58.2 per cent of the target by November 2012.
Plan spend which is basically investment expenditure has reached 52.4 per cent of the Budget target at Rs 2,90,992 crore. Of this the ministry of rural development has already used 61 per cent of its Plan Budget of Rs 80,194 crore by November 2013 and the ministry of women and child development had spent 71 per cent of its Plan allocation of Rs 20,350 crore in the period. So despite minister Jairam Rameshs protests,fund flow to his ministry is on even keel.
Other big spenders like agriculture ministry has spent 61 per cent of its Budget allocation by November 2013. This is higher than the 54 per cent a year ago while health and family welfare ministry has chewed through 53 per cent of its Rs 32,745 crore Plan allocation in the period compared to 49 per cent a year ago.
The higher spending is in line with what finance ministry officials have insisted on. Expenditure must be front loaded to the first half of the year. It allows for balancing in a year when the exchequer is under stress.
So while there has been warning that compression in spending would impact growth,government spending so far does not show much cut back. Since the Mid Year Review of the Economy was not tabled in Parliament this year there is little available to make a qualitative assessment of how the pressure points are shaping up.
Finance minister P Chidambaram on Thursday stressed the fiscal deficit target of 4.8 per cent is a red line adding that the deficit would ease in December through an improvement in government finances. Meeting the target is essential to ensure that a downgrade does not kick in,but as of now the trends from the expenditure makes that look increasingly difficult.
Surabhi is a special correspondent based in New Delhi.
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