More realistic budget than last year

By Ashwin Tombat
19 March 2013 16:38 IST

What can a Finance Minister do when placed in a piquant position of having been deprived of his single largest source of revenue, while his poll promises continue to languish for want of funds? More or less what Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar did in today’s budget speech; garner every rupee that’s slipping through the tax collector’s fingers and throw in as hefty a dose of emotion as possible into the proceedings.

Except that Mr Parrikar did better. The Chief Minister spoke in understandable Konkani – the very first budget speech ever delivered in the state’s official language – and, even while deploring the excesses of the previous administration, managed an admirable effort given his slender resources. Experts may second-guess the figures and make doomsday predictions about the budget projections, but the CM has come out with a budget that is not only far more realistic than last year’s, but one that is scalable in case his loophole-closing efforts fail to garner the revenue he has projected.

Opening with a lament about how the mining ban has hobbled the state’s economy and reduced the state GDP’s growth rate from 10.5 per cent to 8.94 per cent, Mr Parrikar nevertheless projected a dream growth rate of 12 per cent for the year to come, a figure that was instantly dismissed by representatives of the manufacturing and tourism industries as unlikely to be achieved in substantial measure. Notwithstanding this, the budget contains some long-pending measures that, if the CM’s political will holds through the budget debate, promise to benefit the state in the long run.

However, the tried and tested sops for various sections have been expanded. In addition to his beloved Ladli Laxmi scheme, which he tried in his speech to clarify that it was for educational or professional expenses and not for dowry (as his critics have charged), are new sops – a ‘health benefit’ for freedom fighters, job quotas for their children, a medical allowance for the aged and other schemes for widows, tribals and dalits. But a very close perusal of the figures will probably reveal that the canny CM’s actual outlay for these schemes is, in real terms, lower than last year.

Two thousand apartments at Rs12,000 per sq metre, for the poor, government servants and journalists; honouring the legacy of the late Matanhy Saldanha by extending the monsoon fishing ban to 75 days (by compensating trawler and canoe owners); setting up new PHCs and cottage hospitals, and improving water supply both in North Goa and South Goa are some of the best features in the budget, as is the expansion of the Chief Minister’s Rojgar Yojana and employment guarantee scheme, the grants for development of Panaji and Mapusa and the boost in spending for tourist infrastructure.

The tax proposals are mainly an exercise in plugging loopholes, while conceding the longstanding demand of traders to extend VAT to the incessant exhibitions in our cities. The proposal for an anti-evasion bureau will help in improving tax collections, as incentives are little use without stiff penalties for non-compliance.

However, while the CM patted himself on the back for reducing unnecessary expenditure, he could have benefitted by better advice in some of his own proposals. For example, he has earmarked over Rs12 crore to replace kerosene outboard motors of fishermen with petrol ones. This entails an expenditure of around Rs1 lakh per motor, when he could have just paid Rs1,000 for converting each existing kerosene engine to petrol…

Blogger's Profile

Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.

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