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Andhra Finance Minister presents farmer-friendly, welfare budget

FM made some hard choices, owing to a depleting treasury, axing allocations, not only to strike a balance between wealth creation, welfare programmes but also rein in the fiscal deficit.

Published: 13th July 2019 07:23 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th July 2019 08:30 AM   |  A+A-

Andhra Pradesh Finance minister Buggana Rajendranath Reddy and CM YS Jagan Mohan Reddy with annual buget papers before the budget session at Secretariat in Velagapudi.

Andhra Pradesh Finance minister Buggana Rajendranath Reddy and CM YS Jagan Mohan Reddy with annual buget papers before the budget session at Secretariat in Velagapudi. (Photo | EPS)

Express News Service

VIJAYAWADA: The YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government on Friday unveiled its maiden budget with an outlay of Rs 2,27,974 crore, up by 19.32 per cent from 2018-19 estimates, and as expected, with a razor-sharp focus on agriculture, and social welfare, mainly Navaratnalu -- the YSRC’s nine electoral promises.

Hobbled by a depleted treasury, Finance Minister Buggana Rajendranath Reddy made some hard choices -- axing allocations wherever possible -- not only to strike a balance between wealth creation and welfare programmes but also rein in the fiscal deficit.

In the process, he has also left enough room for the government to put the onus on the Centre to bail it out.

A cursory glance at the budget proposals shows that revenue expenditure is estimated at Rs 1,80,475.94 crore and capital expenditure at Rs 32,293 crore including Rs 8,994 crore towards principal repayment of public debt. Compared to 2018-19 budget estimates, the revenue expenditure is going to increase by 20 per cent and capital expenditure by 12.60 per cent.

The estimated revenue deficit is Rs 1,778.52 crore and fiscal deficit is around Rs 35,260.58 crore or 3.30 per cent of the GSDP, which is less than 3.62 per cent in 2018-19. Interestingly, the Finance Minister did not utter a word on how he is going to increase the State’s tax and non-tax revenue.

While budget estimates for 2018-19 put revenue receipts at around Rs 1,55,507 crore, the revised estimates brought it down to Rs 1,14,684 crore - meaning a shortfall of a little over Rs 40,000 crore.

How does Buggana propose to increase it to Rs 1,78,697-odd crore?

He expects the State’s share in Central taxes to go up from Rs 32,710 crore to Rs 34,833 crore, State tax revenue to go up from Rs 58,125 crore to Rs 75,437 crore, and State non-tax revenue to increase by almost Rs 3,000 crore. Intriguingly, the Finance Minister expects Grants-in-aid from the Centre to increase substantially from Rs 19,456 crore to Rs 61,071 crore.

Among the capital receipts, open market loans by the government are expected to touch Rs 41,121 crore. Public debt in the fiscal year is estimated to be around Rs 46,921 crore. It may be a tall order for the government to achieve the fiscal deficit target of 3.30 per cent, considering the ifs and buts in the books.

Nonetheless, the Finance Minister surely got his priorities right as far as allocations go. The agriculture budget outlay itself is Rs 28,866 crore. He has allocated Rs 8,750 crore for YSR Rythu Bharosa (farmers’ income support) Scheme, bringing into its fold tenant farmers as well. The scheme will be launched on October 15. The YSR Interest-Free Loan scheme for farmers, the subject of an acrimonious debate the last two days, was allocated Rs 100 crore - the reason being that the anticipated payment of around Rs 2,163 crore will arise only in the first quarter of next fiscal.

To shield farmers from price fluctuations, a price stabilisation fund with a corpus of Rs 3,000 crore will be set up. This is in addition to the Natural Calamities Fund of Rs 2,000 crore to help farmers in cases of losses due to the vagaries of nature. Another flagship scheme, Amma Vodi, to encourage women to send their children to school, has been allocated Rs 6,455 crore and is christened Jagananna Ammavodi. It will benefit 43 lakh mothers and each will get Rs 15,000. The Finance Minister deserves a pat for allocating Rs 1500 crore to provide infrastructure and modernise government schools. He has also revived the 100 per cent fee reimbursement scheme, christened Jagananna Vidya Deevena, and allocated Rs 4,962 crore. The scheme includes Rs 20,000 maintenance per student. It will benefit around 15.15 lakh students. In fact, education got a major boost with 34 per cent higher allocation.

Another flagship scheme Aarogyasri, the universal health scheme, has been allocated Rs 1,740 crore. All households with an annual income of less than Rs 5 lakh are eligible for it. For housing, to meet the target of constructing 25 lakh houses in five years,  a sum Rs 8,615 crore has been allocated.

For women’s self-help groups, Rs 1,140 crore has been allocated under the interest subvention scheme. Similarly, for SC/ST sub-plan, Rs 15,000 crore has been allocated for welfare and development of SCs and Rs 4,988 crore for STs. For Backward Classes, Rs 15,061 crore has been set aside. Praiseworthy is an allocation of Rs 24,000 to every weaver’s family in the State and the budget for it is Rs 200 crore. For Kapus, Rs 2,000 crore has been allocated.

Risking criticism, the Finance Minister has downsized allocations for quite a few important sections. For instance, compared to 2018-19, budgetary allocation for minorities is down by 13.56 per cent, similarly, for water resources, it is down by 22.61 per cent and for the environment, forest and science and technology, it is down by 14.7 per cent. Municipal administration and urban development too was given 14.9 per cent less than last fiscal. Youth and sports got a major shock with funding down by 70 per cent. It is a welfare-oriented budget but could fall short of targets if the government cannot raise the money. “This government has inherited probably one of the worst financial positions ever inherited in the history of the country. The debt at the time of bifurcation at Rs 1,30,654 crore has reached a whopping Rs 2,58,928 crore by 2018-19. Furthermore, around Rs 10,000 crore was borrowed through various corporations and diverted for spending. In addition, around Rs 18,000 crore worth bills were kept pending,” the Finance Minister informed the Assembly. Besides, he was confronted with a resource gap of Rs 45,000 crore to fulfil commitments made under vote-on-account earlier this year.

Buggana who was so eloquent in explaining the financial constraints hasn’t explained a roadmap for the way ahead nor did he stress on austerity.

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