The first post-Covid state Budget of the Naveen Patnaik government makes the right noises. An economy hit by the unrelenting pandemic needed higher spending and the Budget is certainly bigger in that aspect about 26% more compared to the revised estimates of last year’s. At Rs 1.7 lakh crore, the Odisha Budget is focused on core areas that need attention.
The health sector gets a 19% hike in allocation; education and skill development are provided a record Rs 24,370 crore while the combined spending on agriculture and irrigation stands at over Rs 25,000 crore. Primacy has been accorded to better access to drinking water as piped supply has been given a whopping Rs 12,000 crore.
Given the rising stock of tourism and sports, the two sectors have received adequate focus. Finance Minister Niranjan Pujari has also announced a new scheme for the urban poor besides making provisions for rural employment and livelihood. All its progressive notes notwithstanding, the Budget seems to have missed a few marks. No concrete move is spelt out for job creation though the pandemic presented a reality check. Health infrastructure, too, does not get much of the cake.
The Rs 425 crore for industries is peanuts given the push the sector needed based on projections made by the state government itself. Industry demanded more focus not just because it is a revenue churner but also from the employment point of view. Allocations aside, it called for reforms and supply-side policies to bring in FDIs, which a number of developed states have managed to attract even after the health crisis.
However, despite the state economy’s projected contraction at 4.9%, the Budget remains optimistic in its approach. It is hopeful of maintaining a budget deficit in the range of 3-3.5% of the GSDP over the next three years, which is consistent with the fiscal responsibility and budget management indicators.
There are some interesting additions too. To chart out a Nutrition Budget for the second year, the state has earmarked over Rs 5,121 crore for nutrition-specific needs, a welcome move. It also has introduced SDG budgeting and claims to have made a staggering outlay of Rs 1.34 lakh crore across 16 specific UN goals. To be fair, the Odisha Budget 2021-22 has shown restraint when it comes to welfarism and treaded the post-pandemic scenario with abundant caution.