Views that never cease

Populist budget avoids harsh realities - Gobind Thukral

It normally happens in an election year that ruling parties avoid imposing taxes and resort to popular pronouncements.   Statistical jugglery is a favoured weapon to hide deficits which are bequeathed to the incumbent government. Rulers in the first three to four years take some bold measures and enrich the coffers while initiating development.   But the BJP government in Haryana in its third budget while keeping a large deficit intact has tried to take the populist route.

It is still an irony that the budget fails to address the burgeoning problems that the people face. The promised fast industrial growth is still a mirage, agrarian crisis despite some respite from poor growth rate   and burgeoning unemployment are creating social tensions. Poor administration remains the real bane. Daily demonstrations, all across the state besides, a month long Jat reservation agitation that could go out of hand anytime, are a sure testimony   to this edgy public mood.

In a total estimated budget of Rs 1.02 lakh crore, a wide fiscal deficit of Rs 17,572 crore has been left uncovered. The finance minister Capt Abhimanyu announced no new taxes in the budget estimates for the fiscal 2017-18 or proposed any changes in the present rate of taxes under the Haryana Valued Added Tax (HVAT). Revenue expenditure is placed at Rs79.935 crore and total revenue receipts at Rs 68,810 crore. Revenue deficit is   placed at Rs 11,125 crore. Haryana’s finances are clearly under stress as the state’s debt burden has jumped to Rs 1.41 lakh crores. It is nearly double than what the Congers left and has even surpassed neighbouring Punjab’s debt. BJP had been the harshest critic of rising debt burden, but in power has resorted to the same practice.

The Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) at constant prices (2011-12)1-12) had registered a high growth of 9% in 2015-16; it has slowed down to 8.7% this year. Officials say the small dip could be due to the impact of demonetisation announced in November last year. The government awaits some good tiding in july when the center implements new GST system.

No new taxes or no hike in the rate of present taxes sounds pleasant to the ears, but it leaves large door open to backdoor levies which the BJP government has often resorted in the forms of higher excise duties and electricity charges that are at a record now.

The BJP as its wont conveniently forgets the large number of poll promises it made to win the electoral battle. People no longer hear anything about 50 per cent profit for the farmers over their cost of production. There is hardly any mention of promised unemployment allowance for the educated youth and old age pension of Rs 2,000 per month for the elderly; only a marginal increase. Even those who suffered losses as their properties were destroyed during the Jat reservation violence in February last year are yet to be fully compensate. Farmers have been forced to buy crop insurance from private players and in case of losses, they have to run around. By making a marginal contribution, the government has washed its hands off any relief. The government, in order, to help major players in agro business is busy holding farmers summit in five state resorts. Confronted with harsh facts about farmers and their poll promises, the BJP ministers cut a sorry figure in TV studios.

Problems of governance abound and stare the government in the face as many departments fall short of achieving physical targets by utilizing   the allotted funds. The whole exercise of planning and budgeting gets frittered away when an important department   like agriculture is able to utilize less than 60 per cent of the allocated funds.

In matter of infra structure; the state is now lagging behind. Haryana’s Public Works Department   has got only around 70 km of new road length between 2014 and October 2016.   During the last two years of the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government, the PWD was able to lay nearly 270 km of road length. Chief Minister Manohar lal loves making announcements and has a poor record of implementation, around 40 per cent. the CAG report for social, general and economic sectors placed in the Assembly shows that out of 5,003 rural water supply schemes, only 3,145 schemes were completed (63 per cent) leaving 1,858 schemes incomplete as of March, 2015. In fact, CAG report is a sad commentary on the lackadaisical approach of the government.

Mahua Pal, Principal Accountant General (Audit), Haryana says :There is huge excess, irregular, unfruitful expenditure, avoidable payment, loss to the state, shortcomings in implementation of rules and programmes involving Rs 528.64 crore.” The CAG has pulled up the government for “diversion of funds” and non-achievement of 100 per cent re-enrolment of dropout girls under the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ scheme. This was launched with much fanfare by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015 and the latest performance audit of shows poor performance ending March, 2016.

Most economic activity is under stress. Newspapers are full of reports of the increased stress due to demonstisation or otherwise in case of scientific instrument industry, plywood industry and other units.   There is a demand slump and   the supply lines are feeling stressed. How does the rosy picture painted by the finance minister fits into the real squalid one is for anyone to guess.



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