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Walia presents populist budget

Delhi FM AKWalia gives several concessions and subsidies and refrained from imposing any tax in an election year, reports Amitabh Shukla.

delhi Updated: Mar 25, 2008 03:01 IST
Amitabh Shukla

The fifth consecutive budget of Delhi Finance Minister AK Walia had only elections in mind. Motivated by the populist budget of Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Walia has given several concessions and subsidies and refrained from imposing any tax in an election year.

“In the Value Added Tax (VAT) regime, there is a limit on our flexibility as far as taxation is concerned,” said Walia after presenting his Budget in the Delhi Assembly on Monday. He said Delhi’s economy was robust, the tax collections and compliance have increased tremendously and, therefore, the government has focused on the needs of the common man.

“This is a Budget with a human face,” the minister said. “It is the responsibility of the government to take care of the needs of those who cannot take care of themselves,” he added.

As numbers are important in an election year, the Budget has proposed to benefit 7.2 lakh people directly. Around 5.2 lakh people will benefit from the Rs 2,539 crore waiver on unrecoverable power dues while another 2 lakh widows and senior citizens will benefit from the increased monthly pension of Rs 1,000 from Rs 600 a month. As reported by the Hindustan Times earlier, the concessions have been largely in the social welfare and education front.

The opposition BJP, which did not allow Walia to make his speech and disturbed him throughout, said the Budget did not tackle galloping prices, lacked vision and had nothing much to improve the infrastructure of Delhi.

“Around 23 lakh people are living below poverty line, the Budget is silent on them,” said Delhi BJP president Harsh Vardhan. He alleged the government failed to fulfill the promises made in the last Budget. Leader of Opposition Jagdish Mukhi too came down heavily and described the Budget as “a bundle of lies and unfulfilled promises”.

Walia claimed said the price trend of essential items in Delhi was under constant watch. “The rate of inflation as per the Consumer Price Index for Industrial workers in Delhi during 2007 was only 4.9 per cent as compared to 9.1 per cent in Kolkata and 6.3 per cent in Mumbai,” Walia said.

Highlighting the importance of fiscal management, the minister said the revenue surplus of Delhi was Rs 4,438 crore in 2006-07 while all states taken together and the government of India had revenue deficits of 0.15 percent of GDP and 1.09 percent of the GDP.

“Without adding any tax burden on the people of Delhi in the recent past, we have been able to maintain the tempo of developmental activities and move forward in every sphere,” Walia added.