Millennium Post

No new tax in Punjab budget, focus on agriculture, health & education

Chandigarh: Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal on Monday presented the state budget for 2019-20 with a total outlay of Rs 1,58,493 crore with no new taxes.

Focussing on agriculture, health, education and rural and urban infrastructure, the budget proposed hikes in the range of 9-36 per cent in the allocation of funds for these sectors.

The total outstanding debt of the state has been projected at Rs 2,29,612 crore for 2019-20 as against Rs 2,12,276 crore for 2018-19 (revised estimates).

However, Badal blamed the previous Akali Dal-BJP government for its "irresponsible fiscal actions" for the accumulated debt. Badal further informed the state assembly that as against the allowed net borrowing limit of Rs 17,335 crore for financial year 2019-20, the debt servicing is a whopping Rs 30,309 crore.

"The servicing of the state's huge debt pre-empted its major revenue receipts, leaving it with little resources for credible efforts," said Badal. The finance minister pegged the revenue deficit and fiscal deficit at Rs 11,687 crore (2.02 per cent of GSDP) and Rs 19,658 crore (3.40 per cent of GSDP) for the 2019-20.

Among new announcements, Badal said a new policy 'Make in Punjab' was being drafted to promote goods manufactured and produced in the state. A new iconic sports complex will be set up at Jalandhar and old age homes will come up at Barnala and Mansa.

For farm debt waiver, Badal proposed an allocation of Rs 3,000 crore for the year 2019-20. "Our government in the next phase of implementation of the scheme, will waive off the loans of landless farm labourers and the families of farmers who have been forced to commit suicides," said Badal.

Choosing not to levy additional taxes in the budget, Badal hoped that the improved efficiency in tax compliance and administration and efficient delivery of public services would lead to economising on expenditure and close the gap.

"When I presented the first budget of this government in 2017-18, there was an unfunded gap of Rs 10,273 crore which was brought down to Rs 4,175 crore in 2018-19. While we see a small carry forward of our liabilities to the next year, for 2019-20, there is now much reduced unfunded gap of Rs 2,323 crore," Badal said in his speech.

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