Desperately pushing for a cash injection from the Centre to bridge the Rs. 4,300 crore gap, Delhi Finance Minister AK Walia tells Shivani Singh that the only alternative is to exhaust the funds meant for the entire city on the Games projects. Excerpts:
Twenty-one months to the Games and your govt. has sent an SOS call to the Centre claiming you are severely short of funds. Why has your financial planning gone so wrong?
When we planned for the Games, we had Rs. 10,000cr in our kitty. It would have been sufficient for the Games-related projects if we hadn't been hit by the economic slump. Our revenue is down by Rs. 1,400cr in the current fiscal. Following the sixth Pay Commission last year, we had to hike pay of our employees. There has also been overshooting of budget for projects, so MCD, PWD, NDMC asked for more funds. Since they are Games-related project, we couldn’t say no. The Centre’s fund hasn't been enough. So in the last 2 years, we used our own funds.
We were promised a lot under the Jawaharlal Nehru Renewal Mission but didn't get a single penny as none of our projects got cleared by Centre. There has been nothing wrong in our planning but due to these factors, we fell short of Rs. 4,300cr and were forced to ask for an urgent fund injection.
In the interim budget, Delhi was allocated Rs. 2,045cr? Is it not enough?
No. The actual allocation is only Rs. 1,000cr. The rest is under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission. To avail those funds, we have to submit projects and get them approved by the Centre. But this is no time to run around to get projects cleared.
Are you going to levy cess like most countries hosting big Games have done? Or take a loan?
We haven't taken any decision on levying cess. We don't want to take loan and get into a debt trap. But we can't even let projects languish and face embarrassment during the Games. If we don't get funds from the Centre, we will use all our funds for Games-related projects. But the rest of the city may suffer. Projects like providing amenities to unauthorized colonies, opening new hospitals and anything that a growing city like Delhi demands will have to wait. Only the Games is our priority.
There are many areas — the Opening and the Closing ceremonies, overlays, in-between events — that do not figure in financial plans of any of the stakeholdres.
This is exactly what we are saying. Unaccounted expenditure is bound to come. We need funds for that and the Centre must help.