Seeking Centre, LG's approvals for everything delays decision-making: Delhi Finance Minister Gahlot
New Delhi: A day after presenting his maiden budget, Finance Minister Kailash Gahlot on Thursday said boosting Delhi's revenue is of prime concern in light of diminished central funds and also lamented about the AAP government having to go to courts often due to regular interventions by the Centre and the LG.
Gahlot said it is "unfortunate that everything has to first go to the Centre and the LG for approval which delays the decision-making process" and claimed that hindrances are created in whatever the AAP government sets out to do.
While presenting the budget in the Assembly, Gahlot had claimed that Delhi was being provided Rs 325 crore as its share in the central taxes pool, despite paying 1.75 lakh crore as income tax.
He also said from the financial year 2023-24, even the Rs 325 crore will not be given to Delhi and termed it "economic discrimination" and "gross injustice".
"It is our right. We have a share in Delhi's taxes. We are considering going to court," he told PTI in an interview.
Asked when they would be approaching the court, Gahlot said, "We have to go to courts for everything."
During his budget speech, Gahlot had said he was missing former finance minister Manish Sisodia, who was arrested by the CBI in connection with the Delhi excise policy scam case.
"The experience (of presenting the budget) was wonderful but we deeply missed Manish Sisodia. Not just the Kejriwal government but the entire Delhi missed him as the Delhi budget and Sisodia have been synonymous with each other. We have presented a good budget," Gahlot said.
He also hoped that Sisodia returns soon to take back his responsibilities.
The budget presented on Wednesday was delayed by a day following a row between the Centre and the AAP dispensation over allocations under various heads.
"Nothing is easy here. Be it getting yoga done for Delhiites, sending teachers to Finland, any minister going abroad for learning any new technology, or the chief minister himself going to Singapore," Gahlot said.
"But still we are committed and whatever promises we have made to Delhiites, we will fulfil them even if we have to fight for them," he added.
In Wednesday's budget, the Delhi government's projected excise revenue has shown a decline.
In the 2022-23 budget, the government had estimated an excise revenue of Rs 9,500 crore but in the estimates for 2023-24, the figure has decreased to Rs 7,365 crore.
Asked how the government will address the revenue shortfall, he said, "We are trying to raise the revenue collection through different means. Meeting revenue shortfall is a matter of concern. We will have to sit down, brainstorm and see how it needs to be done. GST collections have been good but there is still scope for improvement."
"Had the new policy (2021-22) continued, I don't think this issue would have risen. The same policy is doing well in Punjab. It was a good policy but problems were created. Whatever work we want to do, problems are created," he lamented.
Talking about his experience while preparing his first budget as the finance minister, Gahlot said he took it as an "assignment" that came at the last minute.
On February 28, Gahlot was given the additional charge of finance following Sisodia's resignation from the Arvind Kejriwal-led cabinet. Sisodia was handling 18 of the total 33 departments in the Delhi government.
"By profession, I am a lawyer. I prepared the budget as a lawyer would prepare a case. Sometimes, it happens that a case comes at the last minute and I took it (budget) as an assignment. My entire team, from my peon to the secretaries, worked late nights and I don't think we left the place (Delhi Secretariat) before 11 pm on any day," he said.
Last year, the Delhi government announced the Rozgar Budget, which focussed on creating jobs, but it did not find mention in Gahlot's budget speech.
"Some of the Rozgar Budget initiatives are on track, but some like Delhi Shopping Festival, food truck policy, and redevelopment of markets have not taken off. We will take them up again and move them forward," he said.
Though the budget saw a decline in allocations for health and transport sectors, Gahlot said education and health continue to be priority areas for the AAP government.
"Last year, the allocation for education was somewhere around 22 per cent of the budget, while this year it is 21.7 per cent. The allocation in earlier years was done for infrastructure development like the construction of classrooms. These sectors have got handsome allocations," he said.
The budget has also proposed a loan of Rs 850 crore to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi for flattening the three landfill sites.
"Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is himself monitoring the sites. He visited the Okhla and Bhalswa sites and will soon be visiting Ghazipur. We are confident of fulfilling the timelines and the milestones and we will remove the landfills in two years," he stressed.