Punjab Budget fails to impress bizmen

This was expected as the ruling dispensation’s coffers are empty: Industrialists

Punjab Budget fails to impress bizmen

Shivani Bhakoo

Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 28

Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal presented the 2020-21state Budget at the Assembly in Chandigarh today. This was the “expected” Budget, which failed to bring cheers to the business and trading community in the industrial town. Businessmen said there were no high-hopes from Budget as the state government had empty coffers. This was the reason why they did not feel much disappointed. “The “non-industry friendly” Budget has failed to provide even the basic needed infrastructure,” said industrialists.

No additional support to industry

The All Industries and Trade Forum (AITF) president, Badish Jindal, said the Punjab Budget once again failed to give any relief to the sinking industry in the state.

“No additional support is provided to industry for pending VAT refunds or for better infrastructure. In the proposed Rs 131-crore expenditure to be incurred on Focal Points, Ludhiana has been excluded from the list of cities in the state,” Jindal b

Already Rs 22 crore development works were going on in Ludhiana Phase 4, Jalandhar, Bathinda and Mandi Gobindgarh, said Finance Minister. Whereas there were eight phases of Focal Points in Ludhiana and five other industrial areas, he added.

1,24,000 cases pending with VAT Department

The height of corruption in the VAT Department could be gauged from the Finance Minister’s statement according to which the number of pending assessment cases from 2013-14 to 2016- 17 was 1,24,000.

Even after exempting small traders under the new assessment policy, 30,000 cases would still be pending with the VAT Department, which would clear 8,000 cases every year. Almost three year after the introduction of the GST still 1,24,000 cases were pending with the VAT Department.

The proposal of New Industrial Mega Parks in Ludhiana, Bathinda, Rajpura and Fathegarh Sahib seems useless as the existing industry is running into losses. The government has no plan to save the existing industry in the state.

Dismal condition of Focal Points

The CICU president, Upkar Singh Ahuja, however, said he never expected anything in the Budget, which would please industry. At least the ruling dispensation could have cleared the pending VAT/GST refunds and announced initiatives for improving Focal Points in the industrial hub, whose condition was utterly dismal, Ahuja added.

“There is no use of more and more declarations when the existing industry is already dissatisfied and unhappy,” Ahuja said.

Industry not on FinMin’s radar

Voicing similar views, the Federation of Industrial and Commercial Organisation (FICO) president, Gurmit Singh Kular, said, “Three Mega Parks have been announced by the Finance Minister, but what about the one at Dhanansu, whose fate hangs in balance? There is nothing for uplifting the sinking industry. It seems while preparing Budget, industry was not the focus area of the Finance Minister as he has given no incentives.”

Subsidy eludes electric vehicles

The FICO chairman, KK Seth, said, “A special package for electric vehicles such as e-rickshaws and e-loaders should have been announced in today’s Budget, which could have tax benefits or some subsidy on purchase of such vehicles. This would have encouraged use of electric vehicles and saved the environment.”

Head of the FICO garment division, Ajit Lakra, however, maintained, “It will be good if infrastructure in Mega Parks is provided as per international norms. It should also have skill development centres to train labour force. Industrial parks have many common facilities for industry like dyeing plants, machine repair centre, common embroidery and printing factories and garment cutting factories. This way the capacity of stitching in factories will be enhanced.”

Allocation for education peanuts: Teachers’ union

The Government School Teachers’ Union Punjab is sore over the amount kept aside for education in the Budget by the state government. Expressing anguish union secretary Pravin Kumar and press secretary Tehal Singh Sarabha said just six per cent of the total Budget was allotted to education against 30 per cent, which was mandatory as per the Kothari Education Commission and the National Education Policy.

“The funds allocated are peanuts for strengthening education in the state. Then they blame teachers for not being serious in providing good quality education to students. Is the government putting in its best efforts to provide best education to children in Punjab?” they added.

Govt shrugging its responsibility

“Their mid-day meals, the plight of workers, who prepare meals, delay in sending ration, delay in providing stationery items, books and uniforms to students because of lack of funds reveal that the government is shrugging its responsibility,” they said.

“Out of the 1,54,805-crore Budget only 1,30,92 crore has been alloted to the education sector. Students cannot avail benefits of many schemes because of lack of funds. Recruitment of the teaching and non-teaching staff in schools is another major concern,” they added.

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