Published Date: August 5, 2021
Tamil Nadu Finance Minister PTR Palanivel Thiagarajan will release a 120-page white paper on the state's finances on August 9. Soon after DMK came to power in Tamil Nadu in May, the newly sworn-in Minister had said he would bring out a white paper. The white paper, which is a report by the government, will include the state’s liabilities and the reasons for loss of revenue in various sectors. The white paper is primarily aimed at discussing the financial position of the state including its liabilities during the previous 10 years of the AIADMK government. The document will primarily feature the loss of revenue of the Tamil Nadu State Electricity Board (TNEB).
Speaking to TNM, the Minister said that there were several reasons the government decided to bring out a white paper, foremost being the lack of transparency in Tamil Nadu’s finances under the previous AIADMK regime. “The state’s finances have been a bit opaque because many of the audit reports over the years have not been released. There is no way of knowing (the true state of finances) because these are all estimates until the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General of India) reports come up.”
In June, during the debate on the motion of thanks to the Governor’s address, PTR had said that the previous AIADMK government had not tabled five CAG reports. “There are five (CAG) reports that haven’t been released by the government. This is the reason why we are unaware of the problems. If the (AIADMK) government had maintained transparency and followed the democratic principles, we would have taken note of (the lapses in governance) then itself,” he had then said.
The Finance Minister said that there is a discrepancy of thousands of crores between fiscal deficit and public debt; as debt was growing slower than the cumulative fiscal deficit, he wanted to know how the latter was being funded. “Whatever analysis we were able to do as opposition members, with the information supplied by the government, it showed that there was a discrepancy of tens of thousands of crores between the fiscal deficit and the public debt. I wanted to know how it would be funded because public debt was growing much more slowly than the cumulative fiscal deficit. Surely, that means that had to be funded, I wanted to know the extent of it.”
He added, “I had the fiscal deficit for the last five years and I compared it to the public debt of 2021. So if it doesn’t add up, something is missing. Now I have to be right, because the math can’t be wrong. So I wanted to know where did this come from, how did it come. So that’s the second reason for the white paper.”
PTR had said that according to the Budget presented by the previous AIADMK government for 2021-22, the state debt has risen from Rs 1 lakh crore in 2011 to Rs 4.84 lakh crore in 2021.
The Minister also explained that it was important to understand the state of Tamil Nadu’s finances in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. “After 10 years of (AIADMK) administration and in light of the depth of the economic crisis that we face and the likely consequences in the longer term, because once COVID-19 is over only then the true extent of the damage is going to be visible, so we need to understand the state of our finances. The extent of damage is not just economic, it’s social, educational, health, the increase in school dropouts. So for all that we are going to have to come up with some kind of strategy. So I thought it was good that we all understand what the state’s finances are and therefore we know what to prioritise,” he noted.