Punjab Budget: Shadow of growing debt burden on crucial outlays - The Tribune India

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Punjab Budget

Shadow of growing debt burden on crucial outlays

Punjab Budget

An RBI report reveals that the debt-to-GDP ratio of Punjab is 47.6 per cent, the second highest in the country.



IN a balancing act, Punjab Finance Minister Harpal Cheema has focused on education and health in the state’s 2024-25 Budget, which has a total outlay of over Rs 2 lakh crore, while again refraining from imposing new taxes. But what stands out is the omission of the widely anticipated aid of Rs 1,000 per month for women above 18 years. This honorarium, a pre-poll promise of AAP in Punjab, has been included in the Delhi Budget by the party’s government in the national capital.

Substantial outlays have been made for education and healthcare in Punjab. The proposed schools of brilliance and schools of happiness, Mission Samrath, investments in medical education and grants to state universities signal a holistic approach towards nurturing academic excellence. The establishment of Aam Aadmi Clinics and investments in healthcare infrastructure are aimed at catering to rural areas. The critical issues of crop diversification and groundwater depletion have also been addressed, demonstrating an effort towards sustainable development. Initiatives such as sports nurseries and funding for sports universities are commendable, too.

However, amid this array of allocations, concerns linger regarding the debt burden — which surged from Rs 2.73 lakh crore in March 2022 to Rs 3.33 lakh crore by January 2024 — and the fiscal deficit. An RBI report reveals that the debt-to-GDP ratio of Punjab is 47.6 per cent, the second highest in the country. The state has had to raise more loans to meet its expenditure, with committed liabilities like wages, pensions, loan repayments and power subsidies substantially eating into its revenue receipts. This curtails the government’s financial manoeuvrability to undertake major development works. In the current financial year, too, capital expenditure has accounted for a limited proportion of the total receipts due to the same reason.

#Harpal Cheema


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