Editorial

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By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 5/10/2020 12:30:45 PM IST

 More organisations and in particular political parties have slammed the decision of the ruling PDA in Nagaland to impose additional COVID-19 cess of Rs.5 for a litre of diesel and Rs.6 for a litre of petrol including petroleum products. The COVID-19 cess became effective on midnight of April 28,2020. According to the stat finance department, the COVID-19 cess will continue to be in effect till the central government announces the lifting of the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been no let up from various business associations in expressing their total opposition to the COVID-19 cess and their unequivocal demand for its rollback. So far since the government announced the imposition of the COVID-19 cess, there has been no further reaction from the government. The public perception of the COVID-19 cess requires further clarification and quite obviously the government has to spend sometime to explain what it is. Left to themselves, people in general feel that having to pay so much per litre of diesel and petrol is unjust and since they are all undergoing severe hardship during the lockdown, any extra burden on them is uncalled for and unwarranted. Nagaland’s revenues have fallen drastically due to the lockdown and now faces a huge challenge to tide over the burgeoning deficit projected to total around Rs.955.44 crore annually. As per the statement issued by the finance department, the state’s monthly requirement was Rs.374 crore but in April the state received only Rs.263 crore showing a deficit of Rs.111 crore. The state’s own resources have also drastically come down to Rs.21 crore from the projected estimate of Rs.98 crore (after lockdown) and indicating a shortfall of Rs.77 crore. The Covid-19 cess is expected to generate an additional Rs.55.58 crore annually. Between the justification for hiking up prices of petrol and diesel and the consequent negative impact; certainly the taste of the pudding is in the eating. The state’s finances are in dire straits presently not only due to COVID-19 but due to so many years of fiscal indiscipline. On paper, many projects have been undertaken but one problem with most of them is the fact that cost overruns have ensured overspending and inordinate delays. Thus delays and deficits due to lack of fiscal mismanagement have been the feature of budgets. The lockdown may have deprived the state of revenue to the tune of around Rs.77 annually but even in the best of times, the state had to contend with mounting deficits and stagnant revenue collections. It would be unfair to criticise the government for the COVID-19 cess solely because it seems right. Every state is facing huge financial problems due to the unseen problem thrown by COVID-19 pandemic. Even the centre, which received a huge windfall out of crash of crude oil in the international market , continued to add fresh taxes on petrol and diesel in the name of COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 cess was certainly not imposed solely with an intention of raising money and then spend it for vested interests. The use of the money earned through COVID-19 cess should be done in a transparent and accountable manner and audited. Possibly revenue from the COVID-19 cess could be utilised for non-medical purposes during the pandemic. However, there has to be some estimate on how much is required for all medial and non-medical purposes. Only such an estimate could perhaps put a lid of current suspicions and scepticisms.

 

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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