Budget cuts: Defence, welfare, nuclear power face the axe

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram is putting welfare, defence, atomic energy and road projects under the knife to hit a tough fiscal deficit target by March, risking short-term economic growth and angering cabinet colleagues.

Here are some of the details of the cuts so far and where the axe is falling:

* The defence ministry - the world's biggest arms importer in recent years - faces a cut of $1.9 billion for weapons purchases, which could delay deals to buy howitzer guns and Javelin anti-tank missiles from the United States by at least few months.

* The rural development ministry, which runs a flagship rural employment scheme that is seen as a major vote winner, could have up to $4 billion slashed from its budget, a senior official at the ministry said.

* Government data for the April-November period, for which spending numbers are available, show a fall in disbursements to ministries -- and purse strings are tightening further in the traditionally high-spending last quarter of the fiscal year. A senior finance ministry official said ministries will not get more than a third of their allocated funds in the quarter to March.

* The atomic energy department was allocated only Rs 1300 crore by November-end, out of Rs 5600 crore approved in the budget for the whole year, a finance ministry official said.

* Just Rs 3570 crorew ere released to the ministry of communications and information technology in the same period out of Rs 8600 crore budgeted for the whole year, the official said.

* Overall in the April-November period, spending on more than 100 capital investment programmes stood atRs 2.43 lakh crore, 47 percent of the target of Rs 5.21 lakh crore for the whole fiscal year, compared with 50 percent a year earlier.

* The roads ministry has so far awarded contracts for just 1,000 km of roads against a target of 9,000 km this fiscal year, partly due to budget constraints and the deteriorating economy, an official at the ministry said. The ministry has been told to look for funds from the National Highway Authority, partly funded by market borrowing.

* One reason the cuts are needed is a rising subsidy bill. The finance ministry expects the burden for providing cheaper fuel to jump by nearly Rs 50000 crore r, above earlier estimates of Rs 43,000 crore.

 Budget cuts: Defence, welfare, nuclear power face the axe

The roads ministry has so far awarded contracts for just 1,000 km of roads against a target of 9,000 km this fiscal years. Reuters

* Another factor is low revenue collection - in the first eight months, collections were 47.6 percent of the annual target compared with 49.7 percent during the same period a year earlier, at a time Chidambaram is trying to substantially lower the deficit from last year's 5.8 percent of GDP.

Reuters

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Updated Date: Dec 20, 2014 15:38:10 IST