With eye on Lok Sabha polls, Uttarakhand’s BJP government likely to table tax-free budget
With an eye on this year’s Lok Sabha polls, the BJP government’s 2019-20 annual budget will be tax-free, which will also have allocations for agriculture, tourism and information technology sectors to boost people’s income and ensure self-employment, said officials familiar with the matter.
The proposed state budget, officials said, would also help facilitate grounding of investments of about Rs 22,000 crore that the government expects to receive after Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled Investors Summit in Dehradun on October 7 last year.
“Besides, the state government is set to propose in the budget a 15% to 20% increase in royalties from different non-tax revenue sources like forests, mining, power, apart from school and college fees,” said a senior official privy to the budget-making process.
According to him, the TS Rawat-led BJP government will table the annual budget in the assembly during its 12-day session that starts on February 11. “The budget will be tabled in the assembly after union finance minister Arun Jaitley presents the interim budget for 2019-20 fiscal on February 1,” said another key official involved in formulating the state budget.
With Lok Sabha elections being just round the corner, the state government wouldn’t want to annoy the voters by imposing fresh taxes, officials said. “Instead, it will augment its receipts by proposing 15 to 20% increase in royalties from different sources of non-tax revenue,” a senior bureaucrat said.
Finance minister Prakash Pant said he had yet not received any proposals for levying fresh taxes in the budget. “However, the budget outlay or budgetary provisions for different sectors are details that can’t be disclosed at this stage because the budget-making process is highly confidential,” he said.
Chief secretary Utpal Kumar Singh said the process of budget making was on, and in that connection, the procedure of consultations with departments had been completed to a great extent. “The budget will be given a final shape and tabled in the assembly after the Union budget is passed in parliament,” he said.
Officials directly involved in budget making said the proposed annual budget would have sufficient financial allocations for all pro-poor schemes, including Atal Ayushman Uttarakhand Yojna. Launched by the chief minister recently under the health care scheme, all 23 lakh families in the state would be entitled to the medical treatment costing up to Rs 5 lakh.
“There will be sufficient financial allocations for the health care scheme launched recently and Ayushman Bharat Yojna,” said a health official referring to the centrally funded health care scheme, under which families below poverty line would be covered. Similarly, sufficient financial allocations in the budget would be made for developing homestays crucial component of the tourism sector.
“Homestay facilities which are being developed in rural areas would act as a catalyst to boost all aspects of village-based tourism like farm and horticulture tourism and hiking or trekking,” the chief secretary said. “Homestay facilities would help attract both high-end foreign and domestic tourists which would augment rural income besides helping to check forced migration from the hills.”
Officials said the ongoing process of grounding of investments would also benefit sectors, such as IT, medical, health, industry, agriculture and food processing. “If required there will also be budgetary provisions for all those key sectors, which would also help generate jobs as well as self-employment,” a senior official said.
“For instance, if required, there will be sufficient financial allocations for the IT sector, so that Business Productivity Online Services (BPOs) get a boost in rural areas,” the senior official said. “If needed, there would also be budgetary provisions for promotion of organic farming. Such financial allocations would be made apart from the centrally, state-funded and externally aided projects already going on in the state to enhance productivity in the farm and horticulture sectors.”