Chief Minister Siddaramaiah greets fellow legislators, as he presents the state budget for fiscal 2024-25, in Vidhana Soudha, Bengaluru, on Friday
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah greets fellow legislators, as he presents the state budget for fiscal 2024-25, in Vidhana Soudha, Bengaluru, on Friday (Photo | Express)

CM Siddaramaiah delivering welfare schemes on borrowed money

CM presents deficit budget; Borrowing at Rs 1 lakh crore the highest ever; More funds for programmes for women, youth, SC/STs, backward classes; Rs 52,000 crore for guarantees

BENGALURU: Chief Minister Siddaramaiah presented a Rs 3,71,383 crore state budget for 2024-25 with a continued focus on welfare programmes and an eye on the Lok Sabha polls in the coming months. The welfare programmes are set to receive an allocation of around Rs 1.20 lakh crore.

His 15th budget, eighth as CM — and the first ever with the picture of the Preamble of the Indian Constitution on a Karnataka budget copy cover — was a deficit budget, the borrowing crossing Rs 1 lakh crore, the highest ever.

In his longest budget speech of 3.15 hours, Siddaramaiah (who holds the finance portfolio) revealed that their borrowing increased by close to Rs 19,428 crore compared to 2023-24, while capital outlay (to create assets) increased only by Rs 1,671 crore this year. Interestingly, the CM’s budget has increased allocation to social services by Rs 22,613 crore compared to 2023-24. This indicates that Siddaramaiah’s borrowing might be flowing to welfare schemes.

“Though I have presented a revenue deficit budget, I have increased the budgetary allocation for welfare programmes to Rs 1.20 lakh crore,” he said, adding that he is confident of achieving revenue surplus after next two years as projected in the Medium-term Fiscal Policy (MTFP).

The CM tried to stress his budget by providing more funds for programmes for women, youth, SC/ST and backward, besides Bengaluru development. The CM claimed that his budget maintained fiscal discipline that is limited under Karnataka Fiscal Responsibility Act 2022.

Defending the guarantee schemes, the CM said they estimated Rs 52,000 crore for the schemes this year. “Through the guarantee schemes, an average of Rs 50,000 to Rs 55,000 is transferred to each family per year. Implementation of guarantee schemes has brought us admiration from the entire world,” he said.

With an eye on mobilising funds and increasing revenues, Siddaramaiah announced that shops and establishments will be allowed to remain open till 1 am in Bengaluru and 10 other corporation areas. He also increased tax collection targets in some sectors for 2024-25, setting a target of Rs 1.10 lakh crore for the commercial tax department as compared to Rs 1.01 lakh crore last year; while for the excise department, it is Rs 38,525 crore against Rs 36,000 crore in 2023-24. One per cent “fire cess” will be levied on property tax of newly constructed multistoried buildings, the funds from which would be used to increase efficiency in the fire and emergency services department.

CM blames Centre for ‘injustice’ to Karnataka

Many of the mega projects, including Bengaluru’s Peripheral Ring Road and sports complexes of international standards in four places in the state capital, have been taken under Public Private Partnership (PPP) to reduce financial burden on the state government. Apart from these, installing solar panels in back waters, developing Brindavan Gardens at Krishnaraj Sagar (KRS) dam, electric vehicles charging centres and petrol bunks in APMCs, are also taken under PPP model. Eyeing Bengaluru seats in the Lok Sabha polls, the CM announced many projects to ease city traffic, including a tunnel road on a pilot basis which will be constructed this year at Hebbal Junction. His budget also focused on the Bengaluru Suburban Rail project, metro connectivity and adding 1,334 new electric buses to BMTC. The CM’s focus on education is more on infrastructure and adopting technology.

Siddaramaiah said the government’s decision on waiver of interest on overdue medium and long term loans from District Cooperative Central (DCC) and Primary Cooperative Agriculture and Rural Development (PCARD) banks (earlier announced during the Belagavi session in December 2023), would benefit 57,000 farmers. The government will provide Rs 450 crore financial assistance by way of compensation to the banks under the scheme, he said.

The CM in his budget speech blamed the Union government for not giving ‘justice’ to Karnataka in the 15th Finance Commission and through other grants.

  • Rs 2,90,531 Revenue expenditure

  • Rs 55,877 Capital expenditure

  • Rs 24,974 Loan repayment

  • Total outlay of budget Rs 3,71,383

The New Indian Express