C&RD, education take the cake; cigarettes, liquor set to be dearer in Meghalaya
SHILLONG: A deficit budget of Rs 1,236 crore for 2017-18 was on Wednesday presented by Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, who abstained from doling out much-anticipated incentives ahead of the Assembly polls.
Sangma, who also holds the Finance portfolio, announced additional tax proposals in the last full-fledged budget of the Congress-led MUA-II government before the elections in the beginning of next year.
According to the government’s tax proposals, cigarettes and liquor will be costlier. Also, late closing fees for hotels, restaurants and bars will be revised.
Though the budget was far from rousing excitement among the electorate, a significant component was community and rural development (C&RD). The budget allocation for C&RD jumped more than twofold from the previous year to Rs 1,731.57 crore keeping in line with the chief minister’s vision to bridge the gap between government agents and the common man.
Sangma proposed to extend the national rural livelihood mission to 13 more blocks from the existing eight. The existing number of blocks is 43.
The rise in allocation in the education sector was also noteworthy, especially at a time when the government has promised to revive the past glory of Shillong as an educational hub. While last year the sector saw a budget cut, this time it jumped by over Rs 230 crore to Rs 909.94 crore.
The chief minister quoted Nelson Mandela while announcing the allocation for education, saying, “Education is the most powerful weapon which can be used to change the world.”
The government intends to adopt multi-pronged measures to address issues like school dropouts and problem of employability of the youths in the State. The initiatives proposed in the budget, if implemented in letter and spirit, can hold water in the long run.
The health sector, however, lost in the allocation race with a budget cut of around Rs 50 crore. This is despite the fledgling healthcare service in the State, especially the rural pockets.
The Mukul Sangma government, which is dedicated to improving road connectivity, boosted allocation for roads and bridges. “Development of road infrastructure and providing village connectivity in the State is one of the main thrust areas of the government,” Sangma said in his speech.
The chief minister said several initiatives have been taken up with a view to accelerating growth, providing ecologically sustainable livelihoods and inclusive development, improving connectivity, bridging infrastructure gaps and promoting human capital development, among others.
Presenting the budget, which is around 3.8 per cent of the Gross State Domestic Product, the chief minister said out of the estimated total receipts at Rs 12,510 crore, the revenue receipts are estimated at Rs 11,280 crore and capital receipts at Rs 1,230 crore.
Excluding borrowings, the total receipts are estimated to be Rs 11,302 crore.
On the expenditure side, Sangma estimated the total expenditure at Rs 12,873 crore during 2017-18, of which revenue expenditure is estimated at Rs 10,648 crore and capital expenditure at Rs 2,225 crore.
Excluding repayment of loans, the estimated total expenditure is Rs 12,538 crore.
Interest payment during 2017-18 is estimated at Rs 589 crore and pension payment at Rs 730 crore. Hence the budget of 2017-18 is deficit of Rs 1,236 crore.
Sangma said the State’s own resource has been adversely affected after the order of the Supreme Court Committee on road safety to impose ban on the sale of liquor near national and state highways, and educational and religious institutions. “With the continuing impact of the NGT ban on coal mining, the revenue base of the State has been reduced considerably,” he said.
This is the first budget of the State government after merging the plan and non-plan outlays since the Central government had already merged the plan and non-plan expenditure effective from the Union Budget of 2017-18 to enable it to provide appropriate budgetary framework having focus on the revenue and capital expenditure.
According to the chief minister, the merger of the outlays will help the government rationalise its budgetary allocations with a focus on development expenditure and also synchronise the budgetary framework with that of the Union government. While the merger is expected to simplify and ensure an effective budgeting system, the process further needs to be streamlined and fine-tuned, especially in the context of the revenue and capital account, he said.
The chief minister said that 2016-17 was marked by two major national policy developments. Firstly, the passage of the Constitutional amendment, paving the way for introduction of the transformational Goods and Services Tax (GST), the objective of which is to create a common Indian market, improve tax compliance and governance and boost investment and growth. Secondly, the demonetisation of the two highest denomination notes in the country.
“However, this action which was sudden in nature, created panic amongst the people and with the required logistics not in place, it caused inconvenience to the common man in the country, including our State,” the chief minister said.
Sangma said that in the years to come, it is generally expected that consumer states like Meghalaya are likely to benefit from GST implementation.
The chief minister outlined the budget proposals under the overarching theme of Sustainable Development and Convergence and building upon the groundwork and investments made in the previous years. “Our thrust would now be to implement these proposals in the right earnest to achieve the desired outcome and ensure sustainability of the momentum of growth,” he said.
Sangma said during 2015-16, the GSDP at current market price was Rs 26,745 crore, as per the quick estimates, which shows an increase of 9.58 per cent from the previous year. The advance estimates indicate that the GSDP for 2016-17 is Rs 29,566 crore, an increase of 10.55 per cent over 2015-16.
The growth of the tertiary sector is registered at 1l.93 per cent, the secondary sector at 9.38 per cent and the primary sector at 7.51 per cent over the year 2015-16. The per capita income of the State at current price for the year 2016-17 stands at Rs 88,497 as per the advance estimates as against Rs 81,498 in the year 2015-16 showing an increase of about 8.26 per cent.
The chief minister said the vision of the government in the budget speeches over the years explained its abiding commitment to inclusive growth and sustainable development. Special attention was accorded to women, youth and the under privileged as well as paving the way for poverty-free Meghalaya, having safe and secure space for all the inhabitants of the State to pursue their well being, he added.
The chief minister announced the formation of Meghalaya Media Society to look into the welfare of journalists. He also proposed a new scheme to provide accommodation facility for senior accredited journalists in the State.
CM’s black-topping scheme
Sangma also announced the new scheme, Chief Minister’s Black Topping of Rural Roads programme, which will cover about 164 km of roads providing concrete roads based on plastic cell technology. This would be in addition to 120 km of rural roads taken up under Megha-LAMP.
The chief minister said as part of the clean and green initiative, pico-hydels and other new renewable technologies will be promoted to provide water and energy at a low cost and in an environmentally sustainable manner to our rural communities.
He also said the priority of the government is to have a multi-pronged strategy with the aim of creating an enabling environment for generating employment in rural areas and promoting agro-entrepreneurship.
Spring shed initiatives
Sangma announced the need to revive and strengthen all 7,000 spring-sheds in the State through the ‘Spring shed Rejuvenation Programme’ to conserve rich natural resources and also to provide sustainable source of water to people for domestic and agricultural purposes and at the same time address the problem of depleting underground water.
He said as part of the sustainable development and for a Greener Meghalaya, the government will promote involvement and partnership of communities for strengthening the existing conservation activities and encourage agro forestry within the villages.