‘Job creation a priority, Bihar needs special help’

Published on Sep 19, 2022 09:39 PM IST

Bihar’s finance minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary says the state needs special status/consideration/ package to shed the tag of backward state, which is reflected through Centre’s statistics despite state’s concerted efforts 

Bihar finance minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary. (HT Photo)
Bihar finance minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary. (HT Photo)

Bihar’s finance minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary says the state needs special status/consideration/ package to shed the tag of backward state, which is reflected through Centre’s statistics despite state’s concerted efforts. In an interview with Arun Kumar, the minister says the efforts are on to focus on service sector to augment revenue generation by making the basket broader and cater to the state’s need of job creation, which remains the priority.

How do you see the financial health of the state?

It’s generally good. After the Covid-19 disruptions, things are improving. In August, there was 23% increase in GST collection compared to the same month last year and that is commendable.

Is Bihar ready to fulfil the promise of job creation, as announced?

Job creation is the priority of the government, but it should not be mistaken for government jobs only. Business and development activities in the state are increasing in the state. Ethanol plants are being set up. All this will contribute to job creation. When the government talks about creation of jobs, it includes everything, including government jobs. Creation of 10-20 lakh jobs does not mean all will be in the government sector.

With a loan of nearly 2.40 lakh crore, is Bihar heading towards a debt trap?

All states take loans. In fact, the size of loan in Bihar is less than many developed states. Many states have higher debt to GSDP (gross state domestic product) ratio. In Bihar, fiscal deficit has been kept at less than 3.5% of the GSDP and we will bring it further lower to 3%.

How do you plan to augment revenue generation? With the five-year period of GST compensation to ensure 14% revenue growth ending in 2022, how will Bihar meet the shortfall?

Efforts are under way to speed up revenue generation and increase the pool. We are now working on service sector, which has been hitherto minimally explored. We are also exploring the possibility of generating revenue from big service providers like the Railways, banks, insurance, telecom, which operate within our geographical area and also earn profits. We are also working on identifying, chasing, punishing and collecting due amount of tax with penalty from evaders.

How will you tackle flight of capital and poor C-D (credit-deposit) ratio in banks in Bihar?

That is also one important issue. The banks will be asked to give adequate credit to the needy in the state. The CM has also been reiterating it at every meeting with bankers.

Why Bihar shows improving aggregate growth and poor per capital income, which is almost one-third of the national average?

Our per capita income is low in comparison to other states, but when you look at the growth compared to where we were 15-16 years ago, it will appear as a significant improvement. There are reasons for that — first we have the highest population density among big states as well as third largest population in the country. Due to high density, there is pressure on natural resources.

Is special status just a political slogan, as the Opposition dubs it?

There is no denying the fact that Bihar needs special status to catch up with other states — be it in the form of special status, special assistance, package or special consideration to maintain the momentum so that it could get out of backwardness. It is a paradox that despite consistent double digit growth, it remains at the bottom of the ladder of development, as per Centre’s own assessment. It has the highest population below poverty line. If there is no provision at present, it can be made for an aspiring state that has proved itself consistently over the last one decade. Bihar can be provided additional support by ensuring 90% share in central schemes as a special case. Bihar’s growth can fast-track country’s growth.

But BJP says that centre has been giving full support to Bihar.

Statistics speak for themselves. The fact is that the Centre has been gradually withdrawing from central schemes. The central share has been consistently failing from 90% to 70%, 60%, 50% and in some schemes it is virtually nil. Even for the flagship Samagra Shiksha Abhiyaan (SSA), Bihar has got no fund this fiscal despite spending 3,750 crore so far. Sushil Modi (former deputy CM) says Bihar did not pay interest and so the amount got stuck. This is strange when the state is still awaiting the principal amount.

BJP’s state president (Sanjay Jaiswal) says Bihar is getting much higher through devolution of funds from the Centre.

The procedure for devolution is fixed. In vertical devolution, it did increase from 32% to 42%, but in horizontal distribution, it has been fixed in such a way that Bihar is not a big gainer due to strange criteria. We plead for performance as the yardstick for devolution of funds, but the Centre takes it as a whole. Our performance should be matched from where we were before the Nitish Kumar government came to power, not from the period when other states were already much ahead.

PM Narendra Modi had also announced 1.25 lakh crore special package for Bihar?

The Bihar people are still wondering what happened to that. I am just presenting the facts. We request the Centre to have special consideration for the state, rising above politics. Bihar’s growth will be in keeping with PM’s announcements about focus on eastern states. Bihar has huge potential.

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