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Major allocations for power,PIDB,pay panel

Clearing the air on whether there will be presentation of budget or vote on account in the Assembly session starting February 27...

Written by Sukhdeep Kaur | Chandigarh |
February 6, 2009 11:50:43 pm

Budget or vote on account to depend on polls: FM

Clearing the air on whether there will be presentation of budget or vote on account in the Assembly session starting February 27,Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Badal today said the budget was ready and likely to be approved at their February 24 meeting with the Planning Commission in Delhi.

“In all likelihood it will be tabled in the budget session of the Assembly in the second week of March,provided the Lok Sabha polls are not announced by that time,bringing the model code of conduct into force,” he said.

Asserting that there was no reluctance on part of the government to present the budget,he said the pay panel recommendations,which were expected within a week or two,would also be incorporated. While the provision for pay panel is expected to be anywhere between Rs 1,500 and Rs 2,000 crore annually,other major allocations in the budgetary proposals have been made for revamping the power transmission system of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) and the Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB). Irrigation,technical education and health are other key focus areas besides using Centrally-sponsored schemes to the maximum.

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Identifying infrastructure as the priority area,the budget aims at striking a balance between both physical infrastructure (high allocation for power transmission,irrigation and PIDB for its various projects) and social infrastructure (education and health). On the revenue front,though the buoyant tax collections this year

will come as a relief,Punjab will also have to resort to market borrowings.

“Since revenues of states and the Centre have been hit by the slowdown,the latter might allow deviation from the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act (FRBM) under which revenue and fiscal deficits have to be brought down. So our market borrowings can go up by nearly 0.5 per cent. Therefore,plan sizes have not been sacrificed as the finance ministers of states feel governments need to spend more to take the sting out of recession. So despite slowdown,we will be able to increase the plan size to Rs 8,450 crore,a jump of nearly 35 per cent over the last year,” the Finance Minister said,adding that he intends to keep the tempo of growth high with 25 per cent jump in plan size each year.

However,the fiscal challenges ahead for the state are far more daunting on non-plan expenditure,such as subsidies,salaries and interest payments. A major part of this committed expenditure is still being met out of borrowings and the state is likely to overshoot its revenue deficit against target projected for the current year. A recent RBI analysis of budgets of 28 state governments indicated that Punjab was one of the four states where fiscal correction was slow.

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