Mitra pricks Centre for not helping state in debt

Finance Minister Amit Mitra on Thursday criticised the Centre for not granting West Bengal a moratorium on debt repayment “while it was keen on bailing out economically distressed countries like Spain,Portugal or Greece”.

Written by Express News Service | Kolkata | Published:March 15, 2013 12:29 am

Finance Minister Amit Mitra on Thursday criticised the Centre for not granting West Bengal a moratorium on debt repayment “while it was keen on bailing out economically distressed countries like Spain,Portugal or Greece”.

While replying to the debate on the budget proposals in the Assembly that was later passed,Mitra said: “It is like dousing the fire of neighbour’s house while your own house is on fire. When you are helping countries like Afghanistan or Bangladesh,we don’t mind because in those cases you are helping them build their economy. India built the Parliament House of Afghanistan. But while you are extending a loan of Rs 50,000 crore to bail countries like Portugal,Greece and Spain out of a financial crisis they are in,you are not helping a state in your own country which is reeling under a massive debt burden of Rs 2 lakh crore. This is really unfortunate.”

In his budget speech,the finance minister had said that out of the Rs 32,000 crore revenue that the state earns,Rs 25,000 is spent annually for paying interest to debt. He said he had at least 10 meetings with the union finance ministers — Pranab Mukherjee as well as incumbent P Chidambaram — but nothing positive came out.

Mitra accused the Centre of not helping the state while it had itself admitted that West Bengal was a debt-stressed state. “The Twelfth Finance Commission said Bengal along with Punjab and Kerala was a debt-stressed state. It also said that moratorium could be given to the state. A committee was constituted to look into it but it met only once in one year and half,’’ Mitra rued.

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