Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje on Monday presented a budget that is set to give tourism, the mainstay of the state’s economy a major fillip while focusing on creating an environment to facilitate ‘ease of doing business.’ Raje, who in the first year of her second tenure, pulled back spending on incentives and freebies citing poor financial health of the state, was visibly relaxed when it came to giving a few sops here and there.
Raje, who also serves as the finance minister of the state, can be credited with thinking out-of-the-box in her financial budget 2015-16 paving way for multi-disciplinary research in fields such as healthcare, science and humanities, languishing crafts among others. Expertise of farmers, who have made notable contribution in the field, will be used to train other farmers and exposure visits will be organized to their farms.
Even as Raje relaxed taxes on a large number of consumer goods, she maintained that the state will be prepared to implement Goods and Service Tax (GST) by April 2016. “The budget aims at sustainable and inclusive growth with priority sector identification for the state’s economic progress and prosperity. Our focus is on gap filling and maintenance that was entirely ignored by the previous Congress government. We wanted to make a roadmap and this budget will serve as our roadmap for the next three years. This is not a dream budget but a working budget that will take the state to financial stability,” Raje said. “This budget is inspired by ‘rajdharm’ and not ‘rajneeti’.”
Raje proposed a plan outlay of Rs 71,405.78 crore in the budget estimate for upcoming financial year 2015-16 that includes Gross Budgetary Support of Rs. 57,322.77 crore, Internal and Extra-Budgetary Resources of Rs 13,147.59 crore and Resources of Participating Agencies for Public Private Partnership Projects of Rs 935.42 crore. The estimated fiscal deficit stands at Rs 20,609.75 crore which is 2.99 per cent of GSDP while the estimated Revenue Surplus is expected to be Rs. 556.82 crore for 2015-16.
“In my previous term as CM, I had announced to make Jaipur a wi-fi city but work on the proposal was not taken forward by the next Congress government. Reviving the project, in the first phase we will ensure wi-fi connectivity at key locations across the state capital including the main railway station, Sindhi Camp bus stand, Jantar Mantar, Amber Fort, Central Park, Jawahar Circle, SMS Hospital, select metro stations and such other spots,” she added.
The tourism and art and culture sector got a big boost with an allocation of Rs. 244.46 crore in the budget that is 68 per cent more than the revised estimates for 2014-15. Raje promised to promote the state as an attractive tourist destination by efficiently using all means of communication and marketing. In an effort to attract domestic tourists a domestic travel mart will be organized and Jaipur will serve as a center for meetings, incentive, conference and exhibitions.
Raje, who signed several key investment pacts with foreign investors over the past year, kept her focus on making the state investor-friendly. In an effort to attract more investors, Resurgent Rajasthan, an international fair will be organized in November this year. A separate land bank will be set up for immediate dispensation and several such measures will be taken to ensure ‘ease of doing business.’ Raje added that over the past few years medium, small and micro enterprises had fallen off the state government’s radar, a failure she promised to correct. The Indian Institute of Crafts and Design will be roped in for documentation and research of 10 major langushing crafts.
Raje removed entry tax on tin, plate, coffee, cocoa, handpumps and their parts and accessories, photographic film and paper, AC pressure pipes, salt petre, gun powder, potash, wireless reception instruments, marble cutting tool, diamond bits, mishree, batasha. Makhana, sugar toys, ice cream. Radio sets, gramophones, tape recorders, transistors and reduced entry tax on all kinds of electronic goods from 14 percent to 4 percent and all kinds of industrial fuels including petrol, gasoline, petroleum coke from 5 percent to 3 percent, household goods such as television sets, microwave, washing machine, computers and their accessories, transformers, insulators, photocopiers, tyres and tubes of three and four wheeler motor vehicles among other things. Value Added Tax has been exempted from puja hawan goods, kalonji, mosquito net, jute rope. Cataract surgeries are set to get cheaper with pseudophakic intraocular lens too being exempted from VAT. However Raje increased one time tax on two-wheelers, mobile phones, taxi services, a move that will earn Rs. 500 crore more to the state exchequer.
In her two-hour-16-minute-speech, Raje spoke at a stretch, underlining the need to think differently for a progressive state. She said that on the lines of the Prime Minister Adarsh Gram Yojana, a similar Chief Minister’s Adarsh Gram Yojana will be implemented wherein all legislators will have to adopt a village in their assembly constituency. Raje stressed on the need to work heavily in the sectors of education and health. “It is shocking to see that in most government schools, students of Class V do not even have the knowledge of Class II,” Raje told the House. Amidst several proposals to provide qualitative boost to education, Raje proposed setting up of district education boards that will monitor the ground situation and prepare monthly reports of the respective districts. She also proposed to set up one Adarsh Vidyalaya in each gram panchayat and upgradation of select schools to senior secondary level in a phased manner in 657 gram panchayats. Raje also promised a new Sainik School in Jhunjhunu that has a dominant populations of jawans.
Slamming the budget, Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee chief Sachin Pilot told the Indian Express, “The big ticket projects initiated by our government such as the refinery and Jaipur metro find no mention in the budget. It is pure procrastination on the part of the government. Looking at the budget, we feel it is a missed opportunity. A lot could have been done to mitigate the miseries of the middle classes, housewives, farmers. The promise of 15 lakh new jobs rings hollow with no announcements at all. The Raje government has simply revisited a few old schemes and brought in nothing new.”