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Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh Tuesday said there was a significant increase in revenues for the state in the first three months of this fiscal over the previous year. In his first major interaction with the media since taking over Punjab’s reins in March this year, Singh gave details of the state’s financial health, which he said was “destroyed” during the previous Shiromani Akali Dal-led regime.
He said while VAT revenue had gone up 33 per cent to Rs 6,012.96 core from April 1 to June 30, 2017, from Rs 4,568 crore in the same period last year, transport fees/taxes had led to a collection of 25 per cent higher revenue. Further the government conducted excise auctions for the year 2017-18 and earned Rs 1,016 crore (23.1 per cent) more than the previous year.
Talking about the fiscal legacy inherited by his government, the chief minister said the unpaid liabilities amounted to Rs 13,039 crore, while debt had gone up from Rs 51,155 crore in 2007 to Rs 1,82,183 crore in 2017.
“In violation of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, Rs 51,000 crore was raised in the last six months of the previous Akali government,” he said, adding that UDAY bonds of Rs 15,628 crore had been floated to settle loans of PSPCL.
The the 75-year-old chief minister reaffirmed his support for the Goods and Services Tax (GST), saying it would be highly beneficial for Punjab.
“We are totally for GST, let me tell you. It will help Punjab by about Rs 5,000 crore,” he told reporters.
Terming the GST as a “progressive” tax, he said the Congress was opposing it only on account of the multiple tax brackets contained in it. He said 29,693 industrial units had closed down their operations during the last ten years, resulting in surrendering of power connections to the tune of over 1,000 MWs.
The new industrial and investment policy would give a major impetus to industry, he said, announcing an investment of Rs 20,000 crore Petro-Chemical Complex at Bathinda, in addition to 16 new specific industrial parks, besides the hi-tech cycle valley to be set up at a cost of Rs 400 crore.
Singh also said that a job fair will be organised for 50,000 people at Khooni Majra (Mohali) in August and announced establishment of a skills university in Chamkaur Sahib. The Quark City, housing 53 leading global companies such as IBM, Infosys, Emerson Electric, FIS, Evry, was estimated to generate another 6,000 jobs in the next five years, in addition to the 6,500 people already employed in the facility, which has already contributed Rs 2,500 crore in exports to the state revenue, the chief minister added.
Questioned about the limited loan waiver announced by his government for farmers, the chief minister said a two-hectare farm land did not require a loan of more than Rs 1 lakh and he was surprised how farmers had managed to accumulate such huge debts. He said there were about 20.22 lakh bank accounts with an outstanding loan of Rs 59,621 crore as on March 31, 2017.
“There are about 18.5 lakh farming families and about 65 per cent of them are small and marginal farmers, out of which about 70 per cent have access to institutional finance,” he said, adding that on the basis of the interim report of the Haq committee, the government had decided to waive entire crop loans of all small and marginal farmers (up to 5 acres) having loans up to Rs 2 lakh.
Elaborating on the steps being taken by the government to boost agriculture, the chief minister promised a State Agriculture Policy and amendment to the Agricultural Produce Markets Act, besides various other initiatives. He pointed to the hassle-free procurement of 120 Lakh MT wheat to show the success of his government’s efforts in this direction.