The government would have easily given relief from high oil prices if it did not had to bear the cost of oil bonds that the previous government had issued to companies, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters today.
The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government under former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had issued oil bonds – or instruments in lieu of cash subsidy to oil marketing companies – that are up for redemption now.
“If I had not incurred the UPA’s oil bonds worth over Rs 1. 4 lakh crore, I would have given relief from petroleum prices,” Ms Sitharaman said, explaining why she can’t cut excise duty on petrol and diesel for now.
In the past seven years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, over Rs 70,000 crore has been spent on interest payment alone, sources told NDTV in June, contrasting it with this year’s budgetary allocation of Rs 35,000 crore towards the COVID-19 pandemic.
The centre has alleged that under-recoveries of oil companies, thanks to oil subsidies, were converted into oil bonds by the UPA regime.
“The centre and states need to sit down and find a way forward to resolve high petroleum prices,” Ms Sitharaman told reporters today.
The Congress denies that oil bond payments are to be blamed for the centre’s claimed inability of giving relief to people. Amitabh Dubey, president of the Delhi chapter of Professionals’ Congress, pointed out that PM Modi’s government had, in the six-week period between May and June alone, increased fuel prices by Rs 7 per litre.
On reports that Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal criticised many big domestic businesses for allegedly overlooking national interests, Ms Sitharaman said what Mr Goyal meant was that the industry should also think about small traders and support them.
At an event organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) last week, Mr Goyal criticised Tata and more broadly said local businesses should not just focus on profits or think of bypassing local laws, news agency Reuters reported.