A gas nozzle is used to pump petrol at a station
A gas nozzle is used to pump petrol at a stationREUTERS

The government is reportedly looking to hike excise duty on petrol and diesel prices before March, which could its eighth increase since November 2014 supported by a slump in global crude oil prices.

Although the move is aimed at meeting a shortfall in the fiscal deficit target set for this financial year, consumers may get lesser benefits from the move even as crude oil prices fall to 12-year lows in international markets.

"Fiscal deficit target of 3.9% for the current fiscal is sacrosanct and various options are available before the government, including further raising excise duty on petrol and diesel," official sources told Press Trust of India.

The government has already increased excise duty on petrol and diesel thrice in the past two months, which will result in additional revenue of Rs 10,000 crore in the current fiscal, as it stares at a shortfall of Rs 50,000 crore in disinvestment proceeds targeted for 2015-06.

"If global crude oil price provide room for further duty hike, it can be done. The government is open to idea as it will help boost revenue," sources said.

Global crude oil prices fell to $32 per barrel reaching their lowest level since 2004, amid concerns over slowdown in world's second-largest economy, China.

Last week, the government hiked excise duty on petrol by Rs 0.37 per litre and by Rs 2 a litre on diesel to garner additional income of about Rs 4,400 crore.

The additional tax imposed on fuel prices resulted in lower benefits for consumers, although international crude oil prices have fallen by nearly 70% since June 2014.

For the Modi government, it was a much-needed relief as retaining a major share of the benefit from the decline in global crude oil prices has helped it improve its precarious fiscal position.

However, having raised only 18% of the amount targeted through disinvestment in the current fiscal, the Finance Ministry is falling short on that front by by Rs 50,000 crore.

So far, the government has raised only Rs 12,600 crore by selling its stake in four public sector undertakings (PSUs) as against the target of Rs 69,500 crore for 2015-16.

The ministry is expecting to make up for the shortfall by increasing revenue from other sources.

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