The payout of the seventh pay commission recommendations will make finance minister Arun Jaitley walk a tight rope when he announces the fiscal deficit targets for 2016-17.
Expected to incur an additional expenditure of Rs 1.02 lakh crore to pay higher salaries and pensions recommended by the commission, Rs 28,000 crore alone will go for salary hikes of railway employees. In total, the implementation will impact the fiscal deficit by 0.65% of the GDP.
Experts feel that deficit figures shared in the medium-term fiscal policy statement had stated that the fiscal deficit target for FY17 and FY18 is 3.5% and 3.0%, respectively will have a significant impact from the pay commission pay out, leaving the government with higher deficit numbers.
“Achieving these targets in view of the likely acceptance and implementation of the recommendations of the Seventh Central Pay Commission will be difficult. We expect that the fiscal deficit of FY17 to come in at 3.9% of GDP. This will push the attainment of the fiscal deficit target of 3% of GDP to FY19, a year later than envisaged in the fiscal policy statement. In the past also, pay revisions have pushed fiscal consolidation targets. Accordingly, the fiscal deficit targets are likely to be 3.9%, 3.5% and 3.0% in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 respectively,” said Sunil Kumar Sinha, principal economist, India Ratings & Research.
However, the pay commission revisions are yet to be accepted by the high-powered panel headed by cabinet secretary PK Sinha. The recommendations have a bearing on the remuneration of 47 lakh central government employees and 52 lakh pensioners.
An empowered committee of secretaries was being decided to screen the recommendations with regard to all relevant factors of the Commission in an expeditious detailed and holistic fashion.
Though senior finance ministry officials feel that the pay-out which is likely to come only in the middle of 2016, might not be a big burden as the arrears would not be accounting to be much, unlike the past instances.
But, it is expected that the government, while putting a final seal on the recommendations, will keep in mind the tight fiscal position of the country.
“The government will not be generous in the pay out this time as they already are facing pressures from various fronts like disinvestment and poor direct tax collections,” said Dharmakirti Joshi, currently the chief economist at CRISIL.
Finance ministry till now has maintained a stand that it will be able to meet its target despite additional outgo on account of higher pay. But, finance minister Jaitley recently admitted that the impact of implementing the recommendations would last for two to three years.
The seventh pay commission had recommended an average 23.55% increase in salaries, allowances and pension, a move that will benefit 4.8 million staffers and 5.5 million pensioners. The hike will be effective from January 1, 2016.
A minimum pay of Rs 18,000 per month and a maximum of Rs 2.5 lakh has been recommended by the commission, headed by Justice (retired) AK Mathur, that presented its 900-page report to finance minister Arun Jaitley.
The government usually accepts the broad proposals for pay revision — due every 10 years — and state governments usually respond with their own hikes.