The state’s 2017-18 budget, which will be tabled on Saturday, may not burn a hole your pockets. State finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar indicated as much on Thursday, pointing out that with the Goods And Services Tax (GST) likely to be implemented from this July in the country, hiking taxes or introducing new ones for the next three months would bring little help to the state exchequer. Instead, the state’s focus will now move to non-tax revenues, of which land monetisation and state-related fees and levies can play an important part.
“Why would we want to hike taxes and earn brickbats when GST is likely to be implemented across the country soon ? Now onwards, our focus will be on increasing non-tax revenues of the state because that will be in our hands,” said Mungantiwar. The state government is looking to increase its income through various other non-tax measures such as monetisation of land by selling Floor Space Index (FSI), increasing rent of leasehold government plots or hiking fees and penalties levied through various instruments such as court fees and parking challans.
“We get a miniscule amount as revenue from all big government plots like say the Turf club or gymkhanas where public functions, marriages are held for rent of lakhs of rupees for a day. The government can in the future seek 25% of such earnings from them, after all the land belongs to us,” he said.
A restructuring of the state lottery on the lines of Kerala, he said could net the state revenue of Rs1,500 crore instead of paltry the Rs10 crore it earned now.
Mungantiwar also admitted that farmers would remain the focal point of this budget like last year, with funds being collated across departments to help increase productivity of agriculturists rather than a loan waiver at this stage.
The economic survey report of Maharashtra to be tabled in the state legislature on Friday is also likely to usher in ‘ache din’ for farmers, at least by way of numbers, with indications that the agriculture and allied sectors growth rate in the state is likely to be positive than negative as had been the trend of the past four years. The overall growth rate is also likely to inch higher than 8%. The agriculture growth rate last year was negative 5.3% and taken with allied sectors it was negative 2.7%.
“You will see the progress made in agriculture when we table the Economic Survey report tomorrow [Friday]. Overall, our aim is to achieve a double-digit growth figure in two years,” said Mungantiwar
The finance minister’s big worries are the seventh pay commission, which will cause a burden of Rs21,500 core and the loan waiver (if granted), which will cost Rs30,500 crore.
While the state debt is expected to increase in absolute numbers at more than Rs3 lakh crore, the finance department has taken solace in the fact that its proportion to the state’s GSDP is reducing and is hence with the centres parameters.
The state will also make a bid for fixed deposits of all government aligned public companies to raise finances and ensure better debt servicing. This could include deposits of Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority, City and Industrial Development Corporation and Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation, among others, which collectively have deposits more than Rs70,000 crore.
The state government will set up a non-banking financial corporation on the lines of Gujarat, said Mungantiwar, for keeping these deposits.
“I will do this post budget and travel to Gujarat for the same,”he said.