Fuel prices surging due to Ukraine war, says Sitharaman

Updated on Mar 26, 2022 12:45 AM IST
  • Replying to the Opposition’s comments that fuel prices have been raised after the assembly elections, Sitharaman said during the debate on the Finance Bill in the House that prices are surging because of the “global situation, war-like situation” and it has nothing to do with the elections.
**EDS: TV GRAB** New Delhi: Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman speaks in the Lok Sabha during the second part of Budget Session of Parliament, in New Delhi, Friday, March 25, 2022. (SANSAD TV/PTI Photo)(PTI03_25_2022_000210B) (PTI)
**EDS: TV GRAB** New Delhi: Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman speaks in the Lok Sabha during the second part of Budget Session of Parliament, in New Delhi, Friday, March 25, 2022. (SANSAD TV/PTI Photo)(PTI03_25_2022_000210B) (PTI)
ByRajeev Jayaswal, New Delhi

Fuel prices are surging because of supply chain disruptions due to the Russia-Ukraine war at a time when India is integrated with the global economy, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman told the Lok Sabha on Friday, while taking a dig at former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s justification of high inflation in 1951 because of the Korean war and disruptions in America.

Replying to the Opposition’s comments that fuel prices have been raised after the assembly elections, Sitharaman said during the debate on the Finance Bill in the House that prices are surging because of the “global situation, war-like situation” and it has nothing to do with the elections.

She said oil marketing companies are procuring crude oil on a 15-day average rate, which is higher because of the Russia-Ukraine war.

The “impact of that is on all the countries. Supply chains are disrupted, particularly of crude oil… when India is globally connected in the value chain…” she said.

“Even in 1951, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru could say that Korean war can affect Indian inflation. I’ll … I’ll have to say, war anywhere can … affect us. Today in a globally-connected world, it will affect definitely,” she said while quoting Nehru’s statement in Hindi that referred to the impact of Korean war and American situation on inflation in India.

“Korea, America, in 1951 when India was not globally connected. That can be used for justifying a price rise,” she said adding that today, India is “genuinely” globally connected and war in Ukraine is the driving prices of commodities such as fuel. India is the world’s third largest consumer of crude oil and it imports 85% of crude it processes.

Domestic rates of petrol and diesel have surged by 2.40 per litre in just four days as state-run oil companies raised their rates by 80 paise a litre for the third time since March 22. Public sector oil companies that control 90% of the fuel retail market, had frozen daily changes in petrol and diesel rates for 139 days since November 3 coinciding with assembly elections in five states, including Uttar Pradesh. International oil prices that are surging for geo-political reasons had touched the highest level ($139.13 a barrel) on March 7, the last day of polls. Election results were announced on March 10.

Replying to specific comments made by various MPs during the discussion on the Finance Bill, 2022, on the uncertainty prevailing over the legal status of cryptocurrencies, Sitharaman said the government will take a view after the ongoing consultation is concluded.

During the debate, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Supriya Sule expressed surprise over the government’s indecision with regard to the legal status of cryptocurrencies. She said if the government is convinced about the ill-effects of cryptocurrencies, it must ban them instead of levying a 30% tax on them without clarifying the legal position.

Sitharaman said pending consultations on the status of virtual digital currencies, the government is taxing income generated by these assets and the tax-deducted at source (TDS) on such transactions to “more for tracking” to widen the tax base. She informed the house that the taxpayer base has increased to 9.1 crore from about 5 crore a few years ago.

She said despite economic devastation because of the Covid-19 pandemic, India did not impose any Covid tax to fund recovery, unlike many other countries. According to an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report, 32 countries, including developed economies such as Germany, France UK and Russia, levied taxes.

The finance minister said tax is a matter in which the Congress never thought of reducing the common man’s burden whereas, “we’re constantly working to make sure that people are not burdened”.

She said the government’s move to reduce corporate tax helped the economy as corporate tax collections jumped to about 7.3 lakh crore as on Thursday (in the current financial year) compared to 6.6 lakh crore in 2018-19 (a non-Covid year) despite the current fiscal year witnessing disruptions in business activities due to the pandemic.

“People who make and run businesses are treated with a sense of pride so that they can create jobs. We don’t treat them as people from whom we have to suck out everything…” she said.

The finance minister reiterated the government’s commitment to pay around 53,000 crore pending Goods and Services Tax (GST) compensation to states, as decided in the GST Council.

She said the Union government does not discriminate in releasing GST compensation to states as it is committed to implement the decision of the council which is also represented by finance ministers of states. “Please stop this politics. Every state gets the compensation as per the decision of the GST Council,” she said.

After Sitharaman’s reply, the Lok Sabha on Friday approved the Finance Bill, along with 39 amendments proposed by the government, completing the budgetary exercise for the coming financial year from April 1.

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