Tabled on the concluding day of the budget session, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India report on Punjab finances betrays how the state has been juggling figures in its budget to curtail deficit.
Assessing the budget and actual estimates for the year 2012-13, the report reveals how the state resorted to over-optimistic projections for revenue while suppressing its subsidy and pension bills.
The budget projected a target of Rs. 3,123 crore as revenue deficit, the actual deficit was more than double at Rs. 7,407 crore, a jump of 137%. “The actual revenue receipts fell short of the projected figure by Rs. 3,580 crore,” says the CAG report. And this is how.
The budget projected grants from the central government at Rs. 4,853 crore. The state received just half (Rs 2,776 crore). The share in central taxes was projected at Rs. 4,398 crore, Rs. 339 crore more than the actual. Similarly, state’s own tax revenue was short of target by Rs. 516 crore. In case of non-tax revenue, the actual was barely half (Rs 2,629 crore) of the budget estimate of Rs. 5,275 crore.
While revenue targets were padded up, the revenue expenditure was deflated. The actual power subsidy bill was Rs. 5,059 crore; the budget projected it as Rs. 4,020 crore—a difference of Rs. 1,039 crore.
The pension and other retirement benefits liability too differed by Rs. 662 crore. While the revenue expenditure was unduly conservative, the capital expenditure seen as productive was projected at a higher Rs. 5,815 crore. But the actual capital expenditure, according to the report, was mere Rs. 1,916 crore, less than one-third of the budgeted, showing “asset creation was not a priority”.
IMPLICIT SUBSIDY BILL
According to the report, the total subsidies increased by 59% over the previous year. Other than power subsidy and food subsidy under the atta-dal scheme, implicit subsidies—concessions to SC/BPL (Scheduled Caste and Below Poverty Line) families such as free textbooks and coaching, school uniforms, shoes, schoolbags (to SC students), and shagun to daughters on marriage—cost the state Rs. 150 crore. More sops were announced by the government in the run-up to the 2012 state elections are yet to reflect in the budget figures.
JUST Rs. 43 CRORE FOR URBAN LOCAL BODIES
While the state government splurged on subsidies, the fundsstarved municipal corporations and municipal councils (the local bodies department is under ally Bharatiya Janata Party and affects its vote bank) got just Rs. 43 crore against a projection of Rs. 100 crore, a steep fall from Rs. 155 crore in the year 2010-11 and Rs. 71 crore in the year 2011-12.
It is not only jugglery of figures that gets passed in the state assembly as budget but also a part of it never comes before it. The CAG report says in the year 2012-13 as well, Rs. 1,154 croere was credited and Rs. 1,169 crore taken out of various funds created through notifications and acts bypassing the scrutiny of the state assembly.
EATING INTO FUNDS OF MIDDAY MEAL SCHEME
The CAG report also indicts the state for retaining funds received under the centrally sponsored midday meal scheme for schoolchildren. “The state did not contribute funds as per the pattern and failed to release even money received from the centre,” it says.