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Punjab budget 08-09: Bland
Poll code, lack of SAD-BJP consensus key factors
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Subsidies to go on

n Rs 2,004 crore for free power to farm sector
n Rs 577 cr as fiscal aid to municipal bodies in lieu of waiving of octroi
n Rs 100 cr for industry
n Rs 360 cr for atta-dal scheme
n Rs 550 cr for pension schemes.

Manpreet Singh
Manpreet Mantra

Here is what finance minister Manpreet Singh had to say:

“The revenue expenditure continues to outstrip revenue receipts, resulting in large revenue and fiscal deficits and cash flow problems. However, I see a turnaround in the economy sooner than expected.”

Chandigarh, March 17
The state budget, with estimated revenue deficit of Rs 1,000.18 crore and fiscal deficit of Rs 4464.66 crore, presented for the next financial year (2008-09 ) in the Punjab Assembly by finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal today proved to be a bland exercise.

It was presented under the shadow of the election code of conduct enforced by the state election commissioner and in the absence of political consensus between the ruling coalition partners — the SAD and BJP — over the steps to be initiated to mobilise additional revenue resources to put the state on the high road of development.

With a total size of 31,634.61 crore including revenue expenditure of Rs 25,261 crore, capital expenditure of Rs 3,482.94 crore, and public debt repayment of Rs 2,446.05 crore, the budget, in fact, was just an account of revenue and expenditure, besides annual plan proposals worth Rs 6,210 crore that are already in the public domain.

Neither was there any announcement to give concessions to any section of society nor new tax proposals to give a boost to the sagging economy of the state.

Manpreet Singh, who loaded his speech with Urdu couplets, has pegged the revenue receipts at Rs 24,261.02 crore and expenditure at Rs 25,261. 20 crore, thus projecting a net revenue deficit of Rs 1,000.18 crore that will be 0.66 per cent of the gross state domestic product (GSDP), whereas the fiscal deficit will be 2.88 per cent of the GSDP.

However, the state on April 1, the first day of the beginning of the next fiscal year, will be having a positive balance of Rs 339.61 crore and close on March 31, 2009, with a positive balance of Rs 407.57 crore in its treasury.

Before the presentation of the budget, the Election Commission has warned the state government against making any announcement in the budget that may influence voters in any manner. He has even turned down the request of live telecast of the budget and its video recording.

The finance minister announced that the state government would continue subsidies that would be Rs 2,004 crore for free power to farm sector, Rs 577 crore as fiscal aid to municipal bodies in lieu of waiving of octroi, Rs 100 crore to industry, Rs 360 crore for atta-dal scheme, besides Rs 550 crore for pension schemes, which does not fall strictly in the subsidy domain.

Holding that the state has been passing through a dismal fiscal situation for the last many years, Manpreet Singh said the revenue expenditure continues to outstrip revenue receipts, resulting in large revenue and fiscal deficits and cash flow problems. However, he saw a turnaround in the economy sooner than expected.

“When our government assumed office in March, 2007, the state’s fiscal position was in a disarray as was reflected in huge deficit of Rs 1748.69 crore in 2006-07 even though the state has got a non-plan revenue deficit grant of Rs 923 crore that year.”

He said the committed expenditure on the salaries, pensions and interest payment, pre-empted more than 80 per cent of revenue receipts in 2006-07. However, he said he was committed to bring it down to 69 per cent during the next financial year and 40 per cent in the next four years.

Manpreet Singh said the gross domestic product of the state is expected to increase to Rs 97,179 crore during the current year as per the advance estimates from Rs 91148 crore in 2006-07. This indicates the overall growth of 6.62 per cent in the current year against the 6.32 crore during the last year. The per capita income at current prices is estimated at Rs 40,566 in 2006-07 against the Rs 36,759 in the same period in 2005-06, thus showing an increase of 10.36 per cent. However, per capita income on constant prices has been estimated at Rs 30158 per annum.

In his budget speech, he said the state economy grew at an annual average rate of Rs 5.08 per cent during the 10th Five-Year Plan against the target of 6.4 per cent fixed by the Planning Commission, whereas the national economy grew at an average rate of 7.77 per cent during the same period.

The Planning Commission has indicated a target of 5.90 per cent economic growth for the state during 11th plan as against 9 per cent project growth of the national economy.

He said against the annual plan of 5111 crore year, the plan for the next fiscal year will be of Rs 6,210 crore, but he wanted to it be in the range of Rs 15000 crore. The outlay for agriculture sector will be Rs 302.52 crore, for rural development Rs 540.42 crore, for energy Rs 2204.52 crore and for social services Rs 1565.95 crore.



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