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Fiscal deficit not current focus, priority is to clear dues: FM

By Vishal S

New Delhi, Sep 27: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday made series of announcements after her meeting with Secretaries and Financial Advisors of different ministries. She said that clearing all dues would be one of the top priorities.

Sitharaman has held several meetings in the last few weeks and taken many key decisions in a bid to revive the economy which is showing signs of a slowdown. The Finance Minister said that she will hold a separate meeting with different agencies of public sector undertaking (PSU) and other agencies on Saturday.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

"At this stage, my intention is to make sure that government does not sit on payments which are due, government does not sit on CAPEX (capital expenditure) which it had planned," she said at a press briefing after meeting.

"Actual details will be given to you later but 90 percent of the overdue as on 23rd Aug,when I spoke about GST refund,have been cleared. Hopefully 30-day limit is not crossed and I am sure Revenue Secy will inform me but even in that we have kept the promise that refunds shall not be delayed," Sitharaman added.

When asked about Fiscal Deficit target, the minister said that the focus currently is to boost demand and arrest the slowdown.

"Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) is on track as per budget target. The government owes only Rs 20,000 crores dues that'll be released by 1st week of October. Have asked all ministries and will ask Central Public Sector Enterprises tomorrow to prepare CAPEX plan for next fourth quarter," she added.

Sitharaman said the ministries have cleared most of the dues of goods and services to suppliers, mostly MSMEs, and the remaining payments will be done in the next few days. The minister also said that ministries have been asked to provide detailed capital expenditure plans for the next four quarters as the government looks to boost growth with spending push.

[No liquidity problem, worst phase of economic slowdown over: Sitharaman]

Amid rising concerns over the slowing economy, Finance Minister Sitharaman on Thursday held a meeting with top officials of private banks.

"Tomorrow, we will have a separate meeting with different agencies of public sector undertaking and other agencies which come under different ministries," she said.

This meeting assumed significance amid concerns raised by micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that their payments were not being cleared by the different wings of the government within time.

Sitharaman also said that the government's capital expenditure was on track and Budget estimates would be met. The consumption was on rise and credit offtake was growing, which together should result in "bouyancy" in the economy, she added. To a query on the fiscal discipline with rebate in corporate tax and expenditure, the minister said the government will reconcile fiscal deficit numbers later.

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