Manpreet says things are finally looking up as debt to Gross State Domestic Product ratio has been brought down. The government is making concerted efforts to upgrade the infrastructure in its schools and recruit teachers.
Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal says the biggest achievement has been to put Punjab’s economy back on the track. The revenues are looking up, thanks to the increase in state’s share in the divisible pool, as recommended by the 15th Finance Commission. This is keeping him upbeat.
In conversation with The Tribune reporter Ruchika M Khanna, Manpreet says things are finally looking up. To prove his point, he says debt to Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) ratio has been brought down and the state did not go into a double overdraft or remained in overdraft for major part of the year. Here are the excerpts of the interview, in which Manpreet claims he has done his job as the custodian of the state’s finances.
Why have you shied away from imposing new taxes? How do you expect the revenue to increase by Rs14,000 crore when you have reduced rural development fund (RDF) and market fee?
Ever since the GST regime came into force, there is little scope for states to impose new taxes. Moreover, with the state getting a higher share in Central taxes (Rs5,000 crore each year), there is no need to burden people with more taxes. Better fiscal management and reducing the expenditure have ensured that there is zero resource gap in 2020-21 Budget. In 2017, the resource gap was Rs10,700 crore, which we have brought down gradually. The reduction in the RDF and market committee fee will have no impact, as few people were paying it.
How will the reduction in the retirement age of government employees help the state?
The government faces a daunting task of providing youth with employment. If one person retires, we can hire three to four youth in his place. The youth brings with them new talent and skills required to rev up the functioning of the state government. The attrition rate in the government sector is six per cent each year. We are looking at providing job opportunities to many youths.
Why did you blame the Centre repeatedly for the state’s financial woes in your speech?
The Centre delayed the payment of dues for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) thrice this financial year. This has hurt Punjab. We have been scrambling to make up for the delay by arranging money from other sources. If the GST dues were cleared on time, the state would not have remained in overdraft for long, even though the Congress government has reduced the number of days in overdraft substantially.
Why did education sector get the lion’s share in the Budget?
There have been several positive developments in the education sector. The school enrolment has increased while the results of children are getting better. Thus, I want to encourage the education sector.
Considering the high incidence of farm suicides, what can be done?
The state government gives compensation to families of farmers, who commit suicide because of rural indebtedness. We are asking all district administrations to ensure that such families get compensation within 60 days of suicide. Also, such families should be given jobs under the MNREGA.
Rs100 crore Digital education
Rs174 crore Rejuvenating higher education
Rs15 crore new girls’ hostel in Punjabi University, Patiala
Rs1.54 lakh crore
Rs2,267 crore for power subsidy to the industry
Rs1,705 crore for providing subsidised power to SCs, BPL families and freedom fighters
Rs650 crore for rejuvenation of Budha Nullah
Rs100 cr for construction of 4,150 classrooms
Rs100 cr for smart schools
Rs75 cr for repair and maintenance
Rs2,000 cr for next phase of debt relief
Rs200 cr for diversification
Rs8,275 cr for free power to farmers
Rs221 cr allocated under Sarbat Sehat Bima Yojana
Rs15 cr for ICUs in district hospitals
Rs50 cr for upgrade of infra in primary, community health centres
Rs600 cr for smart village campaign
Rs500 cr allocated under the Punjab Pendu Awas Yojana
Rs877 cr allocated for development woks
5,000 EWS houses for urban poor under Affordable Housing component of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana
Rs5 cr for setting up of old-age homes in all districts
Rs901 cr earmarked under the head ‘Social Justice and Empowerment’