Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal Monday said the power tariff should ideally be lesser but it was due to coal fired power plants that electricity was costly in the state.
Addressing media after presenting the Budget, Manpreet said power was costly in Punjab as a major chunk of money was spent transporting coal to the plants from far off places.
He, however, patted the back of his party’s government saying that they did not default on power subsidy, which amounted to 40 per cent of the revenue of the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL). Punjab government spent nearly Rs 14,000 in power subsidy for farmers, industry, freedom fighters and the members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes community, he added.
Responding to a question on state’s taxes adding to the high prices of petrol and diesel, Manpreet said except for poll bound Assam, all states had been imposing proportionate taxes on fuel. He added that central exicse duty on fuel increased from 4 per cent during UPA government to 28 per cent in NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He added that though 42 per cent of the excise duty on fuel was imposed by the states, but it was the Centre which took lion’s share by categorizing duty into “special duty”.
Manpreet pointed out that prices of “raw fuel” were relatively higher during the tenure of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, but the petrol and diesel were selling costlier in the incumbent regime at Centre despite cheaper raw fuel prices.
Asserting that Punjab economy was heading for stabilization and that state did not go in for overdraft despite Covid pandemic, Manpreet attributed the turaround to increase in revenue collections due to stamp duty and excise duty.
He pointed out that GST projections could not increase or decrease and that value added tax (VAT) collections had seen an upswing in last two quarters.
Justifying around Rs 14,000 crore outlay for capital expenditure in the budget, Manpreet said it was well deliberated decision arrived after consultations with the finance department officials where they opined that spending had to be increased in “recession year” triggered by the Covid pandemic to “stabilize the economy”.
Manpreet said finance department officials told him that “no economist worth his/her salt could advocate reduction in capital expenditure following the recession year”.
Terming the growth in Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) as panacea to counter the mounting debt, Manpreet said, “Debt would look small if GSDP increases.” He termed industrial production and investments among the key factors in increasing GSDP.
Manpreet said despite challenges posed by Covid, the state governmnent ensured to meet committed liabilities, which included salaries to employees, old age pension and power subsidy. “We did not default on salaries, old age pension and power subsidy,” said Manpreet.
He also boasted of “record procurement” of foodgrains and continued supply of fertilizers even during the “rail roko” by farmers protesting against the three Central agri laws.
Responding to a query on rural development fund (RDF), Manpreet said Centre had already released one per cent of the three per cent fund and had sought details for the remaining. Linking it with farm agitation, he added that once things would be settled with the farmers and central government, the issue of RDF would be also settled.
“I have to contest elections”
On a question whether state budget had any imprints from Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s newly appointed advisor Prashant Kishor, Manpreet said, “I have not even seen face of Prashant Kishor. What has he to do with the budget? He is neither a politician nor an administrator. It is me who has to contest the election.”