CHENNAI: Welcoming the Central government’s decision to give a big push to the agricultural and allied sector in the budget for 2018-19, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Thursday commended Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for presenting a budget which is fairly balanced, growth-oriented, that focuses on development of agriculture, rural development and health sector.
Stating that the country was going through a difficult phase of economic development and it needed acceleration and stabilisation of the growth momentum, the CM said, “Given the circumstances, this budget is addressing the critical issues effectively and the Union Finance Minister has put his best efforts to present a balanced and growth-oriented budget. I hope that this budget will bring fiscal stability to the country and accelerate the economic growth.”
Though the budget has given considerable importance to agriculture, rural development, health etc., the reduction in allocation for some of the sensitive and important schemes like post-Matric scholarships for Scheduled Castes, Pradan Mantri Mathru Vandana Yojana, Skill Development and Livelihood Mission could have been avoided, he noted.
“The requirement of funds under the post-Matric scholarship at the national-level is very high, but this reduced allocation would further tighten the release to the state governments. The Centre could have increased the allocations substantially,” he pointed out.
“While the increase in the investment on infrastructure needs appreciation, the Centre had given special focus on expanding the capacity of the suburban train systems in Mumbai and Bengaluru. Chennai is expanding faster and needs strengthening of its suburban train system. This has been left out in the budget. I hope the Centre will also improve the suburban train system of Chennai,” he added.
Hailing tax concessions on interest accrual extended to senior citizens, the CM recalled that the TN government had been requesting the Centre to ease the tax burden on salaried individuals. We had hoped that the tax burden on salaried individuals would be reduced to boost consumption demand and economic growth. “While we welcome the standard deduction of Rs 40,000, we feel that this falls short of the expectations of the public,” he added.
Enhancement of the minimum support price for all crops to cover at least 1.5 times the production cost, constitution of the Fisheries & Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund and Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund with a total corpus of Rs 10,000 crore, Operation Green with an initial allocation of Rs 500 crore, Bamboo Development Fund with an allocation of Rs 1290 crore, liberalisation of exports of agricultural commodities, doubling the allocation to the agro processing industry, 100 per cent tax deduction extended to farmer producer companies with a turnover up to Rs 100 crore and move to include command area development under the long-term irrigation fund are among the measures welcomed by the Chief Minister.
While welcoming the constitution of a dedicated Affordable Housing Fund in the National Housing Bank, the CM pointed out that the allocation for the PM Awas Yojana was reduced in the Budget.
Hailing the National Health Protection Scheme that would provide health cover of Rs 5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary hospitalisation, the CM recalled that the Tamil Nadu government was a pioneer in implementing the Chief Minister’s Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme.
Palaniswami said the reduction in the rate of corporate tax to 25 per cent to companies with a turnover of less than Rs 250 crore would benefit the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. “However, the expectations of the MS&MEs are far greater and they need to be supported more, as they are the significant contributors to new employment generation,” he added.
Stalin calls it a collection of decorative announcements
Chennai: Stating that the Union Budget had left Tamil Nadu disappointed as it had no mention about funds for the State’s projects, DMK working president MK Stalin on Thursday described the budget as nothing but ‘a collection of decorative announcements.’ “The budget neither contains anything expected by the people of the country nor the announcements made in it satisfactory to them. It’s a collection of decorative announcements,” he said in a statement here.
Referring to the announcement of National Health Protection Scheme, he recalled that his father M Karunanidhi had rolled out a similar health insurance scheme as early as in 2009 when he was the CM. Stalin alleged that the budget had ignored the interests of Tamil Nadu. There were no announcements about funds for railway projects, interlinking of rivers and cyclone ‘Ockhi’ relief.
He also lashed out at the Centre for not announcing loan waiver for farmers despite claiming to prioritise the needs of farmers. Flaying that no effective measures could be seen in the budget to fulfil the poll promise of creating two crore employment opportunities, to rein in the fiscal deficit or propel the economy on growth trajectory, Stalin said the failure to give shape to an AIIMS in TN led to questioning credibility of such announcements. Stalin also blamed “religiously motivated violent groups close to the govt” for the country sliding down to 42nd place from 32nd place in list of countries with best democracies.