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Use forex reserves to foot oil import bill: States
June, 17th 2008

Hitting back at the Centre on the issue of tax cuts on petro products, states on Monday questioned as to why the burgeoning forex reserves are not being used to foot the oil import bill, instead of burdening states by asking them to cut taxes.

"Our forex kitty is increasing. Why cannot a part of it be used to take care of the increasing oil import bill, which in any case is paid in dollars...The way petrol and diesel are handled is not the state subject and states are being asked to take a burden," VAT panel Chairman Asim Dasgupta told reporters.

Pointing out that states will lose at least Rs 8,000 crore in the current fiscal due to cut in sales tax on petrol, diesel and on VAT on LPG as well as reduction in their share due to a cut in central taxes on these fuels, Dasgupta said VAT panel at its meeting on Monday unanimously agreed that half of this burden should be shared by the Centre.

He said states have taken a beating in one "special" circumstance, but they want to know what is the exact basis of fixing prices of petro products by the Centre.

Since the import bill has to be financed in dollars, why the rupee is being mobilised for the purpose, Dasgupta said, adding part of forex could be used which would also partly help in containing inflation.

He wondered why India is so much dependent on imports, especially after geological surveys have shown that the country has huge oil reserves.

India had 315.66 billion of forex reserves as on June 6 this year. Its import bill on petroleum products rose 46.2 per cent to touch 8 billion dollars in April year-on-year.

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