After your government came to power, you came up with a two-part white paper on state finances. In the past year, how have you fared with regard to the financial health of the state?
The White Paper highlighted the real financial and economic health of the state. It also busted some of the myths and claims made by the previous government. It also highlighted the lost opportunities of the last 10 years. Haryana had slipped based on performance in terms of tax collected to GDP ratio. There were huge losses in the power sector. And the real estate sector, from where a lot of recoveries that could have been made earlier, were not made. The non-planned expenditure was much higher than the desired levels in comparison to the planned expenditure. In fact, planned expenditure component was going down constantly. The biggest revelation of the
White Paper document was skewed development expenditure in last 10 years. From this, we took some priorities we had to work upon.
What were your priorities when you took over as the Finance Minister of Haryana?
The first priority was to improve the financial health of the state by improving on the tax to GDP ratio. The second was to start working towards increasing the planned expenditure in comparison to the non-planned expenditure. Thirdly, we had to ensure that the expenses are balanced across the state. Another factor the white paper pointed to was the industry and manufacturing sector’s contribution to the GDP was going down. Reports also revealed that industry and manufacturing units were shifting out of Haryana. So, we had to focus on ensuring that the industry and manufacturing sector expands within the state.
How do you rate the IT preparedness in the state?
When we took over, the IT preparedness of Haryana was one of the worst in the country in terms of administration. Our UID and Aadhar registration, which was lower than 75 per cent before we came to power, was among the lowest. Our revenue earning departments like VAT and Excise were not computerised at all. We did not have the data with which we could analyse, plan and work upon. The chief minister gave the direction and very strong impetus to monitoring the IT preparedness of the State. Aadhaar registration has since improved to 94-95 per cent now. Also, we expedited IT usage in every department and every sector with a special emphasis on revenue earning departments. For the first time, the excise auction took place on an e-platform. That gave us a lot of confidence because we earned quite a lot in terms of revenue. Over 16 lakh pensioners are getting their pension directly every month without any delay or corruption. In the procurement policy, we instructed that every work order placed in Haryana will be processed through e-tendering mode. That ensured transparency and accountability [and] brought down costs.
You have come up with an Enterprise Promotion Policy. Can you elaborate on its objectives?
The policy was aimed at encouraging new entrepreneurs. It has its own purpose and direction to ensure that there is balanced development across the region as far as the industrialisation is concerned. It will also seek to ensure that the economic benefits of local resources are passed down to the primary producers i.e. farmers or small artisans. The policy will help to ensure employment opportunity for all in every district.
Has the policy shown results?
The best part is that industrialists, manufacturing companies, entrepreneurs felt the government was reaching out to them. First thing was the reduction in the trust deficit. Through the EPP, we tried to resolve most of their issues and it is a revolutionary step. Most industries used to face problems with respect to registration, getting various licenses, clearances and permissions. Haryana has shifted from an Inspector Raj regime to a self-certification regime. This is a major step. The onus is on the industry to be responsible and that they do not violate any law. The responsibility of the government is to act as a regulator ensuring that the laws are complied with. The government will try and keep itself at a distance so that they don’t go every day inspecting those industries and factories, which earlier used to result in corrupt practices. It has resulted in enhancing the confidence level of entrepreneurs and industrialists.
One of the major criticisms that previous government faced was “lopsided development”. How is your government dealing with it?
Under the previous Congress government, the overall quality of infrastructure had become so bad that people had started saying that the so-called millennium city (Gurgaon) had been reduced to a gaon (village) only. We are conscious of this. We are focussed. The NCR is an important region for the state economy. We have to ensure that Gurgaon, Faridabad, Sonepat etc. and other cities in NCR, particularly Gurgaon — must be of global standards. Our government is working on it. I am happy that the resources, revenues are flowing in by way of either house tax payment and various other measures.