Shimla, March 17
Despite terming Himachal Pradesh’s financial health “grave”, Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu on Friday announced no fresh taxes while presenting the Budget of Rs 53,413 crore for 2023-24 fiscal year and outlining the plans to make HP a green state by 2026.
In a desperate bid to generate resources for the cash-strapped state, Sukhu announced that Rs 4,000 crore would be generated from water cess on hydropower generation, Rs 100 crore from Rs 10 as milk cess on every liquor bottle and enhanced revenue from open auction of liquor vends.
Sukhu, who holds the finance portfolio, has tried to give a new direction to make Himachal a “green state” by switching to electric vehicles, creating six green corridors and providing subsidy of 50 per cent for purchase of electric taxis, buses and trucks. An allocation of Rs 1,000 crore has been made for replacing 1,500 diesel buses of state transport corporation with electric vehicles.
Under pressure to implement the 10 Congress guarantees promised before elections, he said the Old Pension Scheme had been approved while Rs 1,500 would be provided monthly to 2.31 lakh women in a phased manner. Thrust has also been laid on the social sector with special schemes for orphans, single women and widows and enhancement of MGNREGA and daily wages.
He announced a total of 13 new schemes in his 66-page Budget speech in Hindi which he read in 2 hours 15 minutes, interlaced with six Urdu couplets. He said 90,000 jobs avenues would be created in government and private sectors.
With a huge debt liability of Rs 75, 000 crore and leaving every citizen of the state under a debt of Rs 92,833, he cautioned that the road ahead was not easy. “I am aware that the situation is far from rosy but then we are committed to bringing about a change in the system, though one cannot expect results overnight,” he stated.
“The estimated fiscal deficit this year is expected to be about Rs 9,900 crore which is 4.61 per cent of the GSDP. The revenue deficit this year is estimated to be Rs 4,704 crore as compared to Rs 6,170 crore in 2022-23,” he revealed.
With the burden of committed liabilities like salary and pension (Rs 42) and loan and interest payment (Rs 20) mounting each year, a mere Rs 29 in every Rs 100 is left for development works.
Burdened with the challenge of ensuring development with empty coffers, Sukhu has laid thrust on adoption of latest technology in health and education sector. Thrust has also been laid on tourism promotion with Kangra to be developed as Tourism Capital to help generate the much- needed employment.
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