Ruchika M Khanna, Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, 7 February 2017. The three main political parties, the Akali-BJP, Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party, may have promised the moon to the electorate.
But with the state government having undertaken an exercise to prepare the Budget for the coming fiscal, the first Budget of whichever party wins at the hustings, it is proving that there is almost negligible legroom to fit in the promised “freebies”.
This revelation is getting affirmed as the Finance Department has already started its pre-Budget meetings with various departments. The final Budget will be presented only once the new government takes over. But immediately an interim Budget is likely to be presented in March.
The less than targeted growth in revenue receipts, burgeoning salary and wage bill after nearly 1.50 lakh fresh appointments and fall in revenue expenditure will make it nearly impossible for any of the three parties to implement their election promises.
Official sources told The Tribune that though there had been a growth of almost 21 per cent in the revenue receipts between April and December 2016 as compared to the corresponding period in 2015, it is mainly because of a spike in tax collection post-demonetisation and because of higher devolution of central taxes to Punjab.
The state treasury still has Rs 2,400 crore as pending bills. It is availing ways and means advances and has not paid the amount of power subsidy it should have by the end of three quarters (only Rs 2,829.89 crore of a total of Rs 5,600 crore has been paid).
The state’s own tax and non-tax revenue collection till December 31 was just Rs 22,902.16 crore, as compared to Rs 21,344.47 crore in the same period in 2015, an increase of just 6.7 per cent, against a targeted growth of 11 per cent.
Sources say that though some grey areas will be left (for political announcements of freebies), the state government will have otherwise prepared not just the revised estimates for this year, but also made projections for fund allocation under existing schemes for the next fiscal, by the time the next government takes over.