The government is considering an innovative proposal under which 50% of increased salary of higher-income government staff under the Seventh Pay Commission will be compulsorily invested in bank capitalisation bonds.
The proceeds will be used to recapitalise banks without additional pressure on the fiscal.
While this will result in less cash in the hands of higher-income employees, as a sweetener they will get income tax rebate on the amount invested. Those wanting to invest more than 50% to save tax will be allowed to do so. The Bank Recapitalisation Scheme, as this proposal is being called, will be voluntary for employees with lower salaries (those in the Rs 5,200-20,200 bracket) and pensioners.
A finance ministry official confirmed that preliminary discussions around this proposal were held at a meeting on Thursday, but no decision on its implementation was taken. "The issue was discussed. We are looking at all options," he said.
The government will have to additionally shell out Rs 40,000-50,000 crore annually on account of implementation of the seventh pay commission recommendations with effect from January 1, 2016. If this proposal is accepted, a portion of this money will be used to capitalise banks. According to finance ministry estimates, state-run banks will require Rs 1.8 lakh crore of additional capital in the next four financial years, of which Rs 70,000 crore will be provided by the government.
The proposal currently under consideration gives the government the leeway to meet both its pay commission and bank capitalisation commitments without putting the fiscal deficit target under threat. Bonds will provide the exchequer some wriggle room. The payment will become due when bonds mature, leaving the government with only the interest payment liability in the current fiscal.