West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday gave a 15-day ultimatum to the Centre for agreeing to a three-year moratorium on interest and repayment on its huge debt burden.
Currently, the state’s debt burden is over Rs 2,00,000 crore, with an annual interest and repayment obligation of Rs 22,000 crore. This is for the first time after coming to power that Banerjee has threatened the Centre on the issue of interest moratorium, after stalling major policy policy decisions, starting from FDI in multibrand retail to hike in railway passenger fares.
Banerjee’s statement comes soon after being named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the world. She made it to the list for ousting the Marxists who ruled for 34 years. “I have waited for almost a year for a moratorium on the debt. We have shown a lot of patience. If the Centre does not give a three-year interest holiday within 15-days, it will have to face the consequences,” Banerjee said on Saturday. Later, Banerjee was seen sharing the dais with Union Minister for Law and Justice Salman Khurshid at another event. The outstanding debt of the government is set to increase to Rs 2,26,550 crore in the present fiscal, against Rs 2,08,382 crore in last fiscal. The state plans to borrow Rs 20,071 crore through market loans this year, against Rs 22,423 crore in the last financial year.
“I had discussions with the Prime Minister, and also around fifty times I met the finance minister, requesting a moratorium on debt, but so far we have not got any help,” said Banerjee.
In a recent report on West Bengal, Fitch Ratings had said there could be slippages from Budget targets as the state was depending on grants for fiscal consolidation. Recently, Planning Commission granted an annual plan outlay of Rs 25,910 crore for 2012-13 financial year, 16 per cent more than the previous year’s allocation of Rs 22,214 crore.
However, Banerjee said the state had not received any assistance from the Planning Commission.