Centre extends special festival advance scheme to government’s autonomous bodies

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The finance ministry extended the special festival package to employees of autonomous bodies of the government, according to a memorandum issued on Tuesday.

The move will affect a sizable number of government sector employees as it covers organisations ranging from the Central Bureau of Investigation to the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

As part of a move to stimulate demand, the Centre had in October announced the decision to provide Rs 10,000 interest-free loans to its employees to cover their festival and related expenses.

As in the earlier scheme, no additional funds will be provided for the festival advance and departments would have to extend the loans from within their budgeted amounts.

The amount would be released to employees seeking the facility through a prepaid RuPay card issued by the State Bank of India, the memorandum said, adding that the amount would have to be repaid in ten monthly installments.

The scheme would be applicable till March 31, next year, it said.

On October 12, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced the government’s demand stimulus measures which were estimated to generate additional demand of Rs 73,000 crore in a fiscally prudent way.

Apart from the special festival package, these included the Leave Travel Concession cash package for central government employees along with Rs 12,000 crore capex loans to states and additional central capex of Rs 25,000 crore.

According to a Moody’s report, the fiscal prudence of the measures highlighted the limited budgetary firepower to support the economy during a very sharp downturn.

The total cost of the measures came up to Rs 46,700 crore of which additional direct spending of Rs 41,000 crore was required but not any additional borrowing by the Centre, Moody’s had said.

While it had projected India’s growth to contract 11.5% in FY21 at the time, Moody’s raised its forecast to -10.6% after the government announced the AtmaNirbhar 3.0 package earlier this month.

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