Caught between an economic slowdown and looming drought, state finance
minister Ajit Pawar said he walked the tightrope and did the best he could to ensure development was not hampered and the citizens were not overtly burdened.
This is the finance minister’s take on four important issues:
This year, our focus is on drought relief measures and social sector spending. Given the overall slowdown, we kept the development plan to minimum, at around Rs46,938 crore. I also did not want to burden the common people by hiking taxes, so I have tried to tax the rich, and alcohol and tobacco. Our idea has been to increase our tax base by plugging leakages. Core sectors like water resources, agriculture, power have got handsome funds to ensure the state’s growth story continues. We are spending Rs20,000 crore on the social sector.
Worrying state of public finances
The state debt will reach Rs2.70 lakh crore by the next year but this is well within the central norms. Our total debt stock comes to 17.4% of GSDP, the Centre’s limit is 25 %. The total wage bill – salaries and pension – has increased and is an area of concern. Our fiscal deficit stands at 1.7%, and despite the problems we have a revenue-surplus budget.
We hope to earn Rs1,150 crore from the tax proposals, a big chunk will come from alcohol (nearly Rs400 crore). We have specifically hiked purchase tax on sugarcane as it has been criticised as the most water-intensive farming. And a marginal tax has been levied on gold jewellery. All essential food items are exempt from tax.
On poor irrigation
If we had good rains, our dams would have been full and we would not be facing the drought. Ensuring good monsoon is not in my hands. We have kept aside Rs7,249 crore for irrigation projects and plan to complete 140 of them by year-end.