With the nationwide lockdown extended till May 3, the Bihar government has requested the Centre to hike Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) loan limit to four per cent from the curent three per cent, so states can raise money.
A state can take loan of three per cent of its GSDP in a year.
Bihar has also asked the central government to relax norms for use of the latter’s sinking fund.
State deputy CM and finance minister Sushil Kumar Modi told The Indian Express: “The lockdown is set to impact all of us, the extent of which will be known only in May with revenue assessment. So, we want the Centre to invenene. Just as the loan limit for GSDP was extended from three to four per cent during the 2008-09 economic slowdown, it should be increased now.”
Modi said though Bihar had managed its finances well and did not fully or partially defer employees’ salaries, like some other states, the lockdown would definitely have repercussions. “We have also asked the Centre to allow us use of its sinking fund, which is about Rs 7,000 in Bihar, to pay loan interest,” Modi said, adding the RBI should assist state governments.
Modi said the state had no measure of its revenue loss because of the lockdown, as the deadline of payment for March GST was April 30, the state government would be able to assess its depleted revenue only in May.
“Unlike other states, we had done well in transport and some other sectors in March. Just to ensure that we get back on track, we have already allowed food processing, cement and brick kiln industries to work, with the condition that they keep their workforce inside their campuses,” he said.
Asked how the Bihar government was meeting the additional expenses of relief measures for migrants, Modi said the CM relief fund and other funds had been put to use. “We are still not in a bad economic condition and can give three-four months salary,” said the Bihar finance minister.
Ration card holders had now started getting free ration (five kg wheat or rice and one kg pulse), he added.
Asked what additional measures the state government was taking to screen Covid-19 cases, the deputy CM said: “We have identified certain hotspots in Siwan, Nawada and Begusarai. After having tested all contact samples, we are now doing door-to-door survey to know if anyone has symptoms such as cough, cold and fever. We have started universal sampling in hotspot districts. Besides, we have directed pharmacists in the entire state to keep phone numbers and names of those who buy medicines for cough, cold and fever.”
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