Shillong, March 11: The Congress has termed the state budget 2022-23 as bringing additional burden to the state.
“The budget is not well stitched. At the end, it is going to add more burden to the people of the state, without addressing the fundamental core issues that the state desperately needs,” said Manuel Badwar ( in picture), secretary in-charge social media of the Congress, on Thursday.
According to Badwar, who is also an MBA in finance and marketing from IIM Calcutta, the fiscal deficit itself has gone up to Rs 1849 crore from Rs 1570 crore in the previous year. It seems that the focus of the government is on borrowings rather than internal generation of funds and as a result just the interest payment itself has increased to Rs 110 crore which is also accompanied by the loan repayment of Rs. 946 crore. “These two items themselves contribute to a large extent of our deficit”, he said.
There seems to be a trend that the loans procured are from more expensive sources like HUDCO ( Rs 800 crore) which are more expensive when compared to the soft loans available and this adds up to the repayment burden of the state. The increased borrowings of Rs 2632 crore this year as compared to Rs 2244 crore last year, will definitely impact the financial stability of the state in the years to come, the Congress leader said.
“Our revenue expenses also have increased to Rs.15,376 crore (10% year on year jump) and when compared to our revenue received which is at Rs. 16,035 crore (5% year on year jump) we can notice that a lot more is being spent on establishment purposes which is non-productive in nature”, he said.
Coal trucks running but no revenue
The revenue receipt has not gone up primarily because of the inability to improve tax collection and as an example, mining and quarry itself saw a huge slump where it contributed to less than 1% of state GSDP (inspite of seeing many coal- laden trucks plying on the roads everyday) from the hay-days when it used to contribute nearly 9-10%.,Badwar said.
“We seem to be spending more on festivities and other soft items which do not translate to capital infrastructure building”, he said.
On the contrary, capital expenditure has gone down from Rs 3647 crore in 2021-22 to Rs.3505 crore in 2022-23. In fact, in all the budgets of the previous years presented under the current Chief Minister, there has been a trend of increased revenue expenditure in percentage terms as compared to capital expenditure. It is a well-known fact that increased capital expenditure leads to asset creation, job creation, infrastructure development thereby propelling an economy in the growth trajectory. The youth will be the ones that will suffer the most in the years to come due to lack of opportunities, the Congress leader added.
According to Congress leader, this clearly indicates that the chief minister’s vision to be among the top 10 in the Indian states in 10 years in terms of per capita income and SDG rankings is nothing but a brainwash to the public. This is also damaging to the youths of the state who are desperately in need of job as decreased capital expenditure translates to reduced job creation. While increasing revenue expenditure gives immediate gratification and helps push the popularity of the chief minister, it is damaging to the state economy in the long run.
“While the CM in major part of his address spoke about various initiatives, which were actually central initiatives, even in those initiatives, we are much short of the expected numbers”, Badwar said.
Practically, fund allocation for tourism infrastructure has not been matched with the hype. Simple examples like roads leading to tourist destinations are in such dilapidated forms which are obvious indicators of the same.
The Congress wanted to know about the fate of ISBT inaugurated with such fanfare and the actual business end of it. How many buses have actually moved through those gates?, the Congress asked.
The Shillong-Delhi flight had completed only 19 round trips and out of which 40% of the capacity were from non-revenue generated passengers which has to be borne by public money and this money could have been spent for better use, the Congress said.
Allocation in medical and public health for development expenditure has also decreased. One would expect that this allocation would increase because Meghalaya fares very poorly on crucial health indices like infant mortality rate.
“There has also been a statement on direct job creation of 1500 in the Shillong technology park. As per the budget statement by the CM, the office spaces have exceeded capacity, but who have they allocated these spaces to? How were the eligible tech companies shortlisted? At what rate and at what terms and conditions? If these jobs are directly given by the government as stated by the CM, we have not seen any budget allocation”, he said..
Government collected Rs 276 crore from state excise duties (2019-20) and is projecting Rs 350 crore for excise duty in 2022-23. “This translates directly into the government expecting an increase in liquor consumption, which will mean more people falling into alcohol dependency. As we can see right now that there are no rehabilitation centres in the state and the government has not allocated any funds for rehabilitation.