At the end of a recently held Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council meeting, the finance minister signalled the Union government’s inability to pay compensation to the states, describing the revenue shortfall as an ‘Act of God’ caused by the pandemic. The Union abdicating its responsibility and leaving the states on its own is problematic on many grounds. In the last few weeks many commentators have succinctly explained this. But one question still remains unanswered: Can states do anything on their own to hedge against similar risks in the future?
The Union has provided two options to the states – either borrow from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) or from the open market. But both these measures create liabilities. A question worth considering is whether states can mobilise their own resources without creating liabilities.