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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

In Punjab budget ahead of poll year, farm loan waiver, no new taxes

Presenting the last budget of the current Congress government, Manpreet dedicated it to the farmers who are protesting against the Centre’s three agri laws.

Written by Man Aman Singh Chhina | Chandigarh |
Updated: March 9, 2021 4:58:59 am
Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Badal

Ahead of the Assembly election, which is due early next year, Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Badal Monday presented a “poll oriented” budget for the financial year 2021-22 with an outlay of Rs 1,68,015 crore offering a slew of populist measures while making bulk of its provisions for agriculture, urban development, water resources, health and other sectors.

Presenting the last budget of the Congress government, Manpreet dedicated it to the farmers who are protesting against the Centre’s three agri laws. While deciding against levying any fresh taxes, Manpreet announced the next phase of the crop loan waiver, with an allocation of Rs 1,712 crore, including Rs 1,186 crore of 1.13 lakh farmers and Rs 526 crore of landless farm workers. Already, the state government has given a debt relief of Rs 4,624 crore to 5.83 lakh small and marginal growers.

With an eye to revive the economy affected by the Covid disruption, the finance minister also announced that shops and all commercial establishments will now remain open 24X7.

The free power to the farmers will continue as before, Manpreet said alotting Rs 7,180 crore for the purpose. He informed the House that in the past four years, the Amarinder Singh-led government had provided free power to 14.23 lakh farmers amounting to Rs 23,851 crore.

Manpreet said the state government intended to recruit against one lakh vacancies in a phased manner. “The government will fill 48,989 posts in the first phase and complete the remaining recruitments as per available vacancy position during 2021-22,” he said, adding the state government was able to facilitate employment to 16.29 lakh youth till date and aims at facilitating employment to another 10 lakh youth in next year for which a budgetary allocation of Rs 428 crore has been made.

Among major proposals, he announced to raise old age pension from Rs 750 to Rs 1500 per month and hiked the amount given under Shagun scheme from Rs 21,000 to Rs 51,000 with effect from July 1. The monthly pension for freedom fighters has also been hiked from Rs 7,500 per month to Rs 9,400 per month.

Manpreet also announced implementation of sixth Pay Commission’s recommendations for the government employees from July 1, 2021. “I also announce to pay the arrears, if any, in a staggered manner of which the first installment shall be paid in October 2021 and second installment in January 2022,” said Manpreet.

Stating that the well-being and prosperity of the farmers was the central theme of the state government, he announced a new scheme ‘Kamyaab Kisan Khushaal Punjab’ worth Rs 3,780 crore. Under this scheme, some key initiatives are proposed like fixing base price for horticulture crops and payment of deficiency price as compensation, two new schemes to mitigate the risk of producers, agricultural marketing innovation research and intelligence centre to assist the farmers in fetching better return through marketing intelligence reports etc, he said.

The minister also announced a mega museum and park dedicated to Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar which will come up on 22 acres of land in Kapurthala at a cost of Rs 100 crore.

The social sector expenditure has been increased by 72 per cent from Rs 2,320 crore in the last budget to Rs 4,000 crore for the next fiscal.

The budget has proposed an allocation of Rs 7,856 crore for health infrastructure; Rs 17,051 crore for agriculture and allied sectors; Rs 6,827 crore for weaker sections of the society; and Rs 16,302 crore for education and allied sector. Rs 16,557 crore have been earmarked for rural, urban and other infrastructure.

While the total budget size is Rs 1,68,015 crore, the effective outlay, after providing for a provision of Rs 30,000 crore towards ways and means transactions for the current year, is Rs 1,38,015 crore. The total receipts for the financial year 2021-22 are expected to be Rs 1,62,599 crore thus bringing the revenue deficit to Rs 8,622 crore.

Stating that the Congress government’s prudent fiscal management has led to a recovery of the state’s finances, which were left in a precarious condition by the previous SAD-BJP government, Manpreet said, “GSDP has grown, on an average, at the rate of 10.43 per cent over the past three eyars (2017-18 to 2019-20) against an average growth rate of 8.87 per cent during the last three years of the previous government (2014-15 to 2016-17)”.

The minister went on to state that the state GSDP has grown 42.30 per cent – from Rs 4,26,988 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 6,07,594 crore in 2021-22 Budget Estimates – and that the per capita income of the state has increased from Rs 1,28,780 in 2016-17 to Rs 1,66,830 in 2019-20,which is 24.29 per cent higher than the national average of Rs 1,34,226.

Pointing out that the treasury had remained in a period of overdraft during the previous government for 148 days in 2014-15, 57 days in 2015-16, and 179 days in 2016-17, the state has not seen double overdraft in the past four years. “Despite the drastic impact of lockdown due to Covid-19 pandemic, the state met all its commitments without witnessing overdraft for even a single day,” he added.

The outstanding debt as a percentage of GSDP will increase in 2021-22. Manpreet said this was primarily because the government needs to increase its spending to bring a turnaround in the sluggish economy which has been further marred by the lockdown imposed due to Covid-19 pandemic. Manpreet said the debt is likely to be Rs 2,73,703 crore by the end of March 2022 as against Rs 252,880 crore for March 2021.

He said he attempted to limit borrowings to the extent of 4 per cent of the gross state domestic product. Manpreet slammed the Centre over the farm laws and said he dedicated “this budget to the farmers of India and salute their inspirational struggle that is already on its way to acquiring a legendary status.”

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