The current NDA government accounts for a whopping 58% of all the disinvestment that has taken place since 1991, an analysis by The Hindu of data released by the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) showed.
The data showed disinvestments worth about ₹3.63 lakh crore have taken place since 1991, out of which about ₹2.1 lakh crore came in the last four years alone, with five months still left in this financial year. The disinvestment done by the current government so far is already almost twice that done by the UPA government over both its terms in power.
In the number of deals too, the current NDA administration seems ahead with 75 deals compared with 33 deals in UPA-II.
Further, the government has set a target of ₹80,000 crore of disinvestments for this financial year, of which it has so far achieved only ₹15,247.11 crore. If it does manage to meet its target, then the present government’s share in total disinvestment since 1991 will go up to nearly 65%.
Last year, the government had set a disinvestment target of ₹72,500 crore, which it overshot significantly by collecting ₹1,00,056.91 crore.
“The government needs all the revenue it can get to meet its fiscal deficit target,” an economist working closely with the government said on the condition of anonymity. “Most of the disinvestment needs to take place. These are loss-making companies. But the manner in which it is getting the disinvestment proceeds in some cases is problematic. Take the ONGC-HPCL deal, where ONGC bought some ₹36,000 worth of HPCL shares from the government. How is that disinvestment, if ONGC is a government-owned company itself?”
ONGC had in January 2018 bought 51.1% of HPCL for ₹36,915 crore from the government, which went towards meeting that fiscal year’s disinvestment target. The government is also reportedly considering ordering several public sector oil companies to buy back shares from the government amounting to about ₹10,000-₹20,000 crore. Another deal in the making is BPCL and IOC buying 26% each in GAIL, which would give the government another ₹20,000 crore.
“What you are doing is you are finding ways of transferring capital from the companies to the government coffer over and above the dividends you are getting from those companies,” Pronab Sen, former Chief Statistician of India, said. “Disinvestment basically means when the government is reducing its holdings in effect, directly or indirectly. What they are doing is they are retaining control over the PSUs, but they are bringing down the value of the PSUs.”