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Reform of the Fiscal and Subsidy Regime for the Petroleum Sector (Based on a Report Commissioned by the Petroleum Federation of India)


  • Morris, Sebastian
  • Varma, Jayanth R.
  • Barua, Samir K.


Reform of the oil sector is long overdue. The problems in the sector emanate from the structure of central taxes and the system of subsidisation through prices. Solutions to the problems necessarily have to address both tax and subsidy simultaneously. The social losses include, misuse / wasteful use of scarce petroleum resources, diversion, adulteration, other avoidable negative externalities, improper substitution between products, tax arbitrage, distortion of consumer preferences and input choices of industries, and international cross hauling of petroleum. Nearly all these costs, and problems arise not because of subsidisation per se but due to the use of varying retail prices that are used to subsidise. Prices for the same product vary for different consumers besides. They also vary across products. These tax /subsidy variations are the root cause of nearly all problems in the sector. Autonomous price variations (i.e. those resulting from the actions of firms (under a regime of non-distortionary subsidies) would be small and not subject to ‘arbitrage’ i.e. to the realisation of rents through diversion and adulteration. Tax reform – viz casting all taxes in the form of value added taxes has not taken place in the sector despite the passage of nearly 15 years since such reform was put in place in nearly all other sectors of manufacturing. Complete deregulation of the sector allowing oil producers, oil refiners, marketing companies, and integrated operators to price their products as they deem fit. Recast central indirect taxes (excise whether specific or ad valorem) into a value added tax, as for any other product., i.e., allowing input credit for all registered intermediate users of petroleum products is overdue. Central government revenues can be protected by working out a revenue neutral value added tax rate. This we have estimated approximately to be 110-120% of value added uniformly to all segments in the industry. Such a tax regime would also be neutral to the degree of vertical integration and remove the biases in the use of products. The Public Distribution System (PDS) is not necessary and ought to be dismantled. Kerosene would then be sold in the open market for all consumers. Kerosene could also be sold by retail outlets, kirana shops, other retail outlets, and by current PDS retailers on par with kirana shops/ ROs. Ditto for LPG. Subsidies are administered through endowments defined upfront, which allows the subsidised consumer to access his/her endowments, trade the same, convert the same into cash all without the causing any distortion. Only pipelines are subject to regulation by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulator. The second best proposals involve the changes/recommendations as before but additionally creates a “Crude Price Stabilisation Fund” (CSF) that allows crude prices (both sharp rises and sudden falls) to be moderated, so that pass thru is influenced by the managers of the CSF. It is important that the CSF is set up as in independent body and insulated from the government and is governed by strict and automatic rules that make rapid price adjustment (to the market prices) necessary when the fund position is low, so that the probability of the fund going bankrupt is kept at nearly zero. A fund between $ 25 to 40 billion is envisaged. A fund of $40 billion (Rs. 200,000 crore) envisaged as a credit line would work in most situations. The fund would operate with strict limits on the quantum of the credit line used to pay out stabilization subsidies during the boom phase of the price cycle as also on the accumulated reserves built up from stabilization taxes during the bust phase of the price cycle. To ensure that such crude stabilisation measures do not affect the competitiveness of the industry exports of product (and crude) are taxed when crude is subsidised, and subsidised when crude is taxed. Appropriate conversion factors would apply. The conversion factor should be based on a refinery loss of between 10 and 7% say 8.5%.

Suggested Citation

  • Morris, Sebastian & Varma, Jayanth R. & Barua, Samir K., 2010. "Reform of the Fiscal and Subsidy Regime for the Petroleum Sector (Based on a Report Commissioned by the Petroleum Federation of India)," IIMA Working Papers WP2010-03-03, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Research and Publication Department.
  • Handle: RePEc:iim:iimawp:9864

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Joshi, Vijay & Little, I. M. D, 1996. "India's Economic Reforms, 1991-2001," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198290780.
    2. Pandey, Ajay & Morris, Sebastian, 2006. "Efficient Subsidisation of LPG: A Study of Possible Options," IIMA Working Papers WP2006-04-07, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Research and Publication Department.
    3. Morris, Sebastian & Pandey, Ajay & Barua, Samir K., 2006. "A Scheme for Efficient Subsidisation of Kerosene in India," IIMA Working Papers WP2006-07-06, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Research and Publication Department.
    4. Morris, Sebastian, 1997. "Why Not Push for 9% Growth?," IIMA Working Papers WP1997-04-01_01440, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Research and Publication Department.
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