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Focus is on making farming sustainable: Maharashtra finance minister

Talking to HT after presenting budget, Maharashtra finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said his government’s thrust was on sustainable agriculture and ensuring the state provided adequate funds for roads, aviation and irrigation

mumbai Updated: Mar 19, 2017 01:02 IST
Surendra P Gangan
Surendra P Gangan
Hindustan Times
Maharashtra,Maha Budget,Devendra Fadnavis
Maharashtra finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar before entering the Vidhan Bhawan to present budget in Mumbai on Saturday. (PTI)

Maharashtra finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar presented his third budget on Saturday. He said his government’s thrust was on sustainable agriculture and ensuring the state provided adequate funds for roads, aviation and irrigation. Excerpts from an interview:

What were your focus areas while presenting the budget?

Our budget will be a push to agricultural and aligned activities. We have made a significant allocation for the infrastructure schemes and for the youth. We have a substantial allocation of Rs 35,000 crore for capital investment, much higher than that Congress-led governments. The investment will be done for roads, ports, irrigation and agriculture. The economic survey predicted a growth rate of 9.4% in this fiscal, but I am sure, with the huge amount allocated for capital investment, we will soon achieve the double digit rate. I can proudly say that we could achieve the growth rate of the 9.4% from the 5.4% it was during the Congress-led government.

The state had to borrow massive loans, Rs 14,000 crore more than estimated in last year’s budget. Will it not lead to fiscal indiscipline?

There is nothing wrong in borrowing money for development. It is not about borrowing money, but about keeping them in described parameters. We have dropped the debt-to-GSDP ratio to 15.7 % from 16.6% against the permitted limit of 22.7%. We have been paying loans and interests very prudently.

But revenue deficit is much higher than estimated last year. Does this not mean spending on development shrunk?

The fiscal year is not over. Revenue deficit is as per our last year’s estimates. To bring fiscal discipline, we decided not to release money before the year ends. It is true that we initiated cut of 20% to some heads, but there was no reduction in release of funds on district plans, local area development funds, certain schemes of the police departments.

There has been uproar in the legislature over farm loan waiver. Why is your government not conceding?

Most farmers regularly pay their loans. We are not against a waiver, but it should not go against farmers paying loans. We are planning to come up with a scheme to help them become sustainable. We have been helping the farmers in distress by restructuring loans, providing subsidies... but our aim is to bring them into the net of institutionalised credit system.

Estimated revenue from stamp duty, excise and housing could not be achieved. Impact of demonetisation?

No doubt there was an impact on some sectors and it was one of the reasons for a drop in revenue from housing-related sectors. The SC order on liquor shops near highways was also a reason for the revenue drop. But I am sure we will achieve our targets in all these sectors next fiscal.

Allocation for capital expenditure is also low...

We are a young government. You will see the expected results in the coming years.To increase allocation for capital expenditure, our endeavour will be to increase revenue. I will hold weekly meeting with departments to monitor resource mobilisation. Besides tapping for more funds from Central schemes, our thrust will be on austerity. For instance, we will see if anganwadis can be set up in rented places. This could save money.

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First Published: Mar 19, 2017 01:02 IST