Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday directed the Excise Department to explore the possibility of setting up a wholesale liquor corporation for the distribution of liquor, as a step towards ending monopolistic practices in the trade and earning revenue for the state exchequer.
The decision was taken at the first meeting of the cabinet sub-committee on finance, set up to regularly review the cash-strapped state's fiscal situation. The sub-committee has been tasked with finding ways of curtailing expenditure and mobilizing resources.
The Chief Minister asked the Excise Department to check on the feasibility of government intervention in the liquor trade, which is currently completely controlled by private players in the state.
He asked the Department to work out the modalities for developing a corporation for wholesale distribution of liquor.
The Excise Department earlier made a presentation to the sub-committee explaining the existing value chain in the liquor trade and also highlighting the model followed by other states, including Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Rajasthan, according to a state government spokesperson.
A move to shift to a multi-year liquor policy from the prevailing one-year policy was also discussed by the sub-committee, which instructed the department to submit a detailed proposal.
The Chief Minister also sought a proposal on restructuring of the Excise and Taxation Departments to ensure more focussed administration of commercial taxes and excise with infusion of greater technology and specialization.
He said it was important for various departments to come out with innovative ways to generate revenue for the state, which has inherited a debt burden of Rs 208,000 crore from the previous Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP government. The Excise Department has been asked to take steps to significantly raise its revenue generation targets over the next three years.
With a fiscal deficit of Rs 34,000 crore and revenue deficit of Rs 13,000 crore, the Congress government in the state is battling a major challenge as it strives to combat the fiscal crisis.