PATNA: Bihar finance minister Abdul Bari Siddiqui on Monday presented a Rs 1.6 lakh crore budget of the state for 2017-18, the second annual budget of the grand alliance government headed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
There were no fresh taxes, and education got the largest allocation of Rs 25,251 crore against Rs 21,897 crore allocated in the last fiscal. A range of development schemes under the ‘Saat Nischay’ (seven resolves) of the chief minister were provided adequate allocation.
In his budget speech that lasted a mere 20 minutes, Siddiqui said: “We have presented a Budget expenditure of Rs 1,60,085.69 crore for 2017-18, which is Rs 15,389.42 crore more than the current year's budget estimate of Rs 1,44,696.27 crore”.
Despite Siddiqui’s claim that fiscal prudence was maintained in the State despite the Centre’s “apathetic attitude,” Bihar’s fiscal deficit stood at Rs 18,112 crore, which is 2.87 per cent of the gross state domestic product (GSDP), estimated at Rs 63,2180.00 crore.
Siddiqui said he could have prepared a “much better budget” if demonetisation had not been imposed, if the Centre had not changed the funding pattern of Central schemes, and if Bihar had got a special economic package or special category state status.
The second largest allocation was made for the energy sector, which got Rs 10,905.03 crore for 2017-18 as against Rs 14,367.84 crore in 2016-17. Rs 7001.52 crore was allocated for the health department, which was over Rs 1,200 crore less than the allocation in 2016-17. The social welfare department was allocated Rs 9,439 crore.
While the leaders of the three ruling parties - JD(U), RJD and Congress - described the Budget as “very balanced and forward-moving,” the main Opposition BJP described it as “directionless”. Senior BJP leader and former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, who held the finance portfolio for eight years up to 2013, said the budget presented by Siddiqui was not worth commenting on.
“There is a clear lack of vision in this budget. Funding for important sectors such as energy and health have been reduced. There is attention on the agriculture sector despite the government talking of an agriculture road map,” said Modi.