India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra) says aggregate liquidity position of the states has improved during FY16 (revised estimate (RE)) and FY17 (budget estimate (BE)). As the Reserve Bank of India is no longer publishing the information relating to the number of days of ways and means advances (WMA) facility being utilised by various states, Ind-Ra has computed a WMA utilisation ratio of states to analyse the liquidity position of the states. This WMA utilisation ratio, which bottomed out at 1.6x in FY10 rose to 5.1x in FY15. Thereon, it moderated to 4.2x in FY16 (RE) and was budgeted to soften further to 2.7x in FY17 (BE).
Notwithstanding the recent divergence, Ind-Ra's analysis indicates states' liquidity position broadly moves in tandem with their fiscal position in the medium-to-long term. Barring few exceptions, WMA utilisation by the states has broadly moved in tandem with their fiscal deficit/GSDP ratio. Moreover, WMA utilisation/GSDP ratio is on the higher side for highly indebted and fiscally weak states. On aggregate basis, states' utilisation of the Reserve Bank of India's WMA facility has varied between 0.2% and 0.6% of GDP since FY06.
The states use WMA facility to manage their short-term revenue and expenditure mismatches. It has been observed that states with higher deficit and/or debt depend more on WMA facility. Some of the states that have been depending heavily on the WMA facility are Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Nagaland, Punjab and West Bengal.
Ind-Ra believes the reasons for divergence between fiscal performance and liquidity conditions during FY16 (RE) and FY17 (BE) were due to enhanced liquidity provision for states from January 2016 and impact of Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana on states' fiscal position.
Another aspect of states' liquidity management is surplus management. Surplus cash of state governments is invested in auction and intermediate treasury bills. These investments enable the states to earn some return on surplus cash while managing their liquidity. While the above mentioned six states have a very low investment, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu budgeted to have the highest cash balance as at FYE17.
There exists divergence between states' liquidity position and the payment track-record of the selected states' power utilities. While some of the states have healthy liquidity position as evinced in their WMA utilisation ratios, the performance is not reflected in the states' utilities. The vice-versa also holds true. While payment by state power utilities is not a direct obligation of state governments, disparity and delay in payment of dues by the utilities plague and often constrain the financial health of counterparties.
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