The state of TN's finances might be parlous, but Finance Minister Palanivel Thiagarajan still found the courage to announce a Rs 3 cut in the state cess on a litre of petrol. It was done upon the instructions of CM MK Stalin, he said, of the move that will be widely cheered at a time when the pandemic and the lockdown have hit household budgets. Diesel though doesn't get a similar favour.
The budgetary announcement comes a few days after the White Paper released by the finance minister had underlined that public debt stands at ₹2,63,976 per family. Overall debt is ₹5,70,189 crore - five times what it was a decade ago.
It had also mentioned that money flowing in to the exchequer - revenue receipts - has been dipping: from nearly 12 per cent a decade ago to just 8.7 per cent in FY2020-21. Fiscal deficit grimly stood at a record Rs 61,320 crore ahead of the budget.
There were two elephants in the room also. Power body TANGEDCO, as the White Paper stated, was losing Rs 2.60 for every unit consumed and the transport sector was bleeding Rs 59.15 for every kilometre run.
Yet, PTR held his horses even as he announced that 1000 new buses will hit the roads soon. "Since the state is yet to recover from the consecutive waves of Covid pandemic, the time for financial reforms is yet to be ripe.We will roll out reform measures to set right the financial situation of the State once the Covid situation improves," he said in a budget speech that surprisingly had no tax hikes, including even on alcohol. The highlights: