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Battling fund crunch, Punjab saving penny, losing pound

Money matters: Despite GST compensation, Punjab struggles to bridge funding gap of Rs 10,273 crore in budget after Centre refused to enhance its borrowing limit

punjab Updated: Jan 14, 2018 18:12 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Punjab,fund crunch,Congress govt
With the Centre refusing to enhance Punjab’s borrowing limit lest it sets a precedent for others, the resource gap in budget remains unplugged.(HT File/Representative image )

Every penny saved is penny earned. But in case of Punjab, for every penny it saves, it spends a pound.

While presenting his maiden budget as a Congress finance minister in June last year, Manpreet Badal had hoped a little prudence will help rein in wasteful expenditure while he pegged the revenue deficit for this year at Rs 14,784 crore and a resource gap of Rs 10,273 crore — something he qualified as the gap between revenue and expenditure after taking state’s current annual borrowing limit at 3% of the gross state domestic product (GSDP) of Rs 12,819 crore into account.

It was this gap that saw Manpreet and chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union finance minister Arun Jaitley and pen down requests for enhancing the borrowing limit by Rs 10,000 crore to help them procure additional market loans for fulfilling party’s farm loan waiver promise. The Centre refused to oblige. The optimism of Manpreet and Amarinder on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) being a “gamechanger” for Punjab too has so far belied expectations. The earnings of the cash-rich Punjab Mandi Board have now been pledged for funding the loan waiver “outside the budget”.

The legacy of Rs 31,000 cash credit limit (CCL) debt left by the Akalis has brought additional liability of Rs 270 crore per month (Rs 3,240 crore annually) for the next 20 years.

With the Centre refusing to enhance Punjab’s borrowing limit lest it sets a precedent for others, the resource gap in budget remains unplugged. So-called austerity measures have not yielded much and bills worth Rs 6,100 crore are stuck as the year ended.

“If the situation continues this way, the pending bills by the time we present the budget in March would pile up to Rs 10,000 crore,” a state finance department official said.

According to Union finance ministry’s reply to a question

on GST compensation to states in the Lok Sabha, Punjab’s GST compensation was the third highest among states. The monthly GST compensation is nearly Rs 500 crore. The total GST remittance per month is Rs 1,500 crore, including Rs 450 - Rs 500 crore each as state GST and integrated GST (IGST). The Value Added Tax on petrol and liquor, which has not been subsumed under the GST, is Rs 400 crore. But the tax revenue is consumed almost entirely by the state’s monthly salary bill of nearly Rs 2,000 crore.

Likewise, state’s share in central taxes worth Rs 760-800 crore a month goes into feeding the monthly pension bill of Rs 850 crore. The revenue coming from excise, electricity duty, stamp duty, transport and other sources is consumed by the monthly power subsidy bill of Rs 900 crore for farmers. The CM has now promised subsidised power to industry too that will add another Rs 100 crore a month. The legacy of Rs 31,000 cash credit limit (CCL) debt left by the Akalis has brought additional liability of Rs 270 crore per month (Rs 3,240 crore annually) for the next 20 years.

First Published: Jan 14, 2018 10:00 IST