A MONTH after a ‘Group of Experts’ (GoE) constituted by Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and headed by noted economist Montek Singh Ahluwalia submitted their report on Punjab’s post-Covid strategy for economic revival, the government has decided to action the recommendations.
While the report had sparked off a row for bashing the free power supply given to farmers, spurring the CM to make a statement assuring that he would not withdraw power subsidy, the government has asked administrative secretaries of all departments to prepare a list of recommendations of the GoE which are doable for their respective departments. The secretaries have been asked to give a timeline.
Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan and Chief Principal Secretary to CM Suresh Kumar held meetings with administrative secretaries of health and family welfare, agriculture, industries and commerce, start-up eco systems, finance, social security, women and child welfare, employment generation, skill development and training, spanning over three days, concluding Wednesday.
Sources in the government said before the GoE submits its final report in December, the government would like to implement at least some of the recommendations of the group.
Punjab is already reeling under a fund crunch. Amarinder, during a virtual Idea Exchange program with The Indian Express, had recently had stated that the government is expected to have a deficit of Rs 25,000 crore by the end of the current fiscal. The GoE report has suggested several measures to the government to tide over the fiscal crisis. While the government has already implemented the GoE recommendation to avail enhancement of FRBM limit by 0.5 per cent for increasing the borrowing limit by opting for 3 of 4 preconditions that include ‘one nation one ration card’ scheme, improving the ease of doing business, implementing local body reforms and power sector reforms, the other measures could pose a challenge to the government.
Those recommendations include deferment of salaries, enhancement of professional tax, increasing excise duty and others. The GoE has also asked for exploiting potential of sand mining, selling land, cutting expenditure on the departments. Employees of the government are already protesting against reduction in reimbursement of their cell phone bills and a number of recommendations are employee-centric and pose a challenge to the government.
Sources said that with the GST compensation from Centre also not forthcoming, the state may have to take tough measures as suggested by the GoE.
The report had stated that the fiscal condition would worsen in the coming years. It said: “The GST shortfall has been paid only upto February 2020. The situation is likely to worsen in 2020-21 because the Centre’s revenue position will be much worse than in 2019-20. More worryingly, the compensation scheme stops in 2022-23 and states will be left to fend for themselves thereafter. GoP must join other state governments in the GST Council to urge the centre to make timely payment to the states of the compensation promised to them as a condition for their support on GST.”
Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal has already taken up with issue in the GST Council and has rejected both the options given by the Centre. The state has now asked the Centre to borrow the money and disburse it to the states.
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