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Vote-on-account: No new taxes, West Bengal govt proposes 17% increase in plan outlay

Finance Minister Amit Mitra, with an eye on the Assembly elections, enlisted the government’s “unprecedented” allocation in the social sector.

By: Express News Service | Kolkata |
February 27, 2016 1:37:36 am
West Bengal, West Bengal election, West Bengal budget, Amit Mitra, Finance Minister, West Bengal assembly polls, vote-on-account, budget Amit Mitra, West Bengal finance minister reading Budget in the state Assembly, when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Education Minister Partha Chatterjee at his back. on Friday. (Express photo by Subham Dutta)

With elections around the corner, the state government, while presenting its vote-on-account in the Assembly on Friday, introduced no new taxes and proposed a 17 per cent increase in plan outlay, at Rs 57,905 crore, for financial year 2017. The interim financial statement projects Rs 8 crore deficit for 2016-17.

Finance Minister Amit Mitra, with an eye on the Assembly elections, enlisted the government’s “unprecedented” allocation in the social sector, while pointing out that the debt-ridden state has received no help from the Centre in terms of debt moratorium.

“This budget proposes no new tax and announcement of no new scheme, this year being an election year. This is allocation for the full year and vote-on-accounts for four months on the expenditure the government will incur till new government is in place,” Mitra said. He added that the state, on the Gross Value Added count, has expanded at 12 per cent against national growth of 7.3 per cent.

Mitra went on to highlight his government’s works for the development of the state in comparison with the previous Left government. The capital expenditure, he said, had increased six times from Rs 15,946 crore, while the budgeted total receipts for the next fiscal (2017) stand at Rs 1,59,570.68 crore and the total expenditure at Rs 1,59,573.68 crore. The revised Budget for 2015-16 for state tax revenue stands at Rs 42,919.66 crore, down from the budgeted amount Rs 46,496.82 crore, indicating slower economic activity than projected.

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State finance ministry officials remained optimistic about the actual tax collection being much higher than the revised financial year 2016 Budget, as only in the current quarter (January-March) tax collection is the highest.

Total debt of the state has swelled to Rs 3.04 lakh crore as per revised budgetary estimate at Rs 2.99 lakh crore proposed when the budget was placed for 2016. In 2016-17 projection, the debt is seen moving further higher to Rs 3.34 lakh crore.

Mitra claimed that the state had set a record in terms of expenditure in the social sector — increasing rural development budget by four times, health budget three times, minority development budget five times, trippling agricultural budget and planned expenditure for women and child welfare. “Even after considering inflation, the increase in budgetary allocation is unprecedented,” he said.

A top finance ministry official said it is a choice between biting bullet at the cost of welfare of the people or managing debt more prudently, both cannot go parallely. “However, we are within the fiscal discipline as the Budget numbers show that the government proposes to shell out Rs 53,869.10 crore for social services, much higher than revised estimates of Rs 45,857.08 crore in 2015-16 and actual spend of Rs 40,155.67 crore in 2014-15.”

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