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Debate on Punjab budget: Where’s the money, SAD asks Congress

As someone who mastered the art of running the state for five years on “empty” coffers, former finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa reminded Manpreet Badal on his oftrepeated statements on fiscal prudence

punjab Updated: Jun 22, 2017 11:38 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Manpreet BBdala,Congress govt,Punjab
Former Punjab finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa(HT File Photo)

The debate on the maiden budget of the Congress government on Wednesday brought a sense of déjà vu.

It was the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which ruled the state for 10 years till March, that was asking the ruling benches to show “where is the money for poll promises” and accept that it promised voters the moon.

In sharp contrast to speeches of members of the ruling party, who resorted to chest-thumping on coming to the House with a brute majority, the attack from the leader of Opposition AAP’s HS Phoolka and Akali benches led by former finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa, revolved around just one point — where is the money?

As someone who mastered the art of running the state for five years on “empty” coffers, Dhindsa reminded finance minister Manpreet Badal on his oftrepeated statements on fiscal prudence. “Where is fiscal prudence in the budget? You are crying hoarse over empty coffers. Accept that you made lofty promises which no state can afford to fulfil,” he said.

The former finance minister also questioned Manpreet’s statement that the change in base year led to the growth rate in gross state domestic product (GSDP) looking good for a few years after 2010-11.

“When the GSDP is taken into account at constant prices, how does the change in base year matter? The growth rate of the state was 6.5% during our two terms while it hovered around 5% during previous term of the Congress (2002-07). You are using selective data to mislead the House and people of Punjab,” he said.

Defending his government’s move to take over Rs 31,000 crore on account of the cash-credit limit (CCL) as debt, Dhindsa said it was done as banks had stopped to commit CCL for grain procurement till accounts were settled. “It was a legacy of past 20 years, not just our term,” Dhindsa went on to say.

The former finance minister asked Manpreet why the budget is silent on how he intends to incur more expenditure without more revenue. “How are you going to mop up Rs 10,000 crore of additional revenue? It cannot come from imposing taxes. With such huge gap in resources and expenditure, you have resorted to just tokenism.”

“The debt of farmers, excluding loans taken from arhtiyas, alone is Rs 55,000 crore. What you have allocated is just Rs 1,500 crore. So is Rs 10 crore for smartphones and Rs 10 crore for medical college in Mohali. This way, it will take 10 years to build the medical college. This budget is a farce, has no sanctity and needs to be trashed,” he said.

First Published: Jun 22, 2017 11:38 IST