December 2017 News

J&K's Budget Likely To Go Up To Rs 85,000 Cr For First Time

29 December 2017
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Jammu and Kashmir's general budget for 2018-19 could, for the first time, touch around Rs 85,000 crores and Rs 1.5 lakh crore if collective revenue plus expenditure were taken, which would lead to massive infrastructure development in the State, giving further push to growth rate, which was close to 7 per cent, better than the country. The growth rate and massive increase in upcoming budget were possible due to series of reforms initiated by the Finance Ministry including clubbing of 29 Departments into four sectors, doing away with Plan, Non-Plan System, presentation of early budget and ending Treasury system in the State. The budget size for next Financial Year of 2018-19, which will be presented by Finance Minister Dr Haseeb Drabu in the Legislative Assembly on January 11, could be around the size of Rs 80,000 cr to Rs 85,000 crore. The combined revenue and expenditure budget could be around Rs 1.5 lakh crore. Meanwhile, Finance Minister Dr Haseeb Drabu, who will be presenting his fourth budget in a row, told the Excelsior that the Finance Ministry has decided to take back 25 per cent unspent amount if the expenditure by December 31 was below 50 per cent. 'We had fixed the deadline of December 31 for 75 per cent expenditure and left only 25 per cent expenditure for last quarter i.e. between January 1 to March 31 with a view to avoid 'financial indiscipline' and ensure timely execution of works. If the expenditure is around 60 per cent, it's alright but if it's below 50 per cent, we are going to take back 25 per cent amount,' Dr Drabu said, adding this would serve as deterrent and ensure timely expenditure of amount next year. He said this was one of the major reforms initiated by the Finance Ministry to overcome 'yearend rush' of utilization of funds, under the garb of which 'misappropriation of funds' was also reported. However, with streamlined system of the Finance Ministry fixing quarterly deadlines of expenditure, only 25 per cent funds have been left for spending in the last quarter, which would help proper use of the funds. Asserting that 2 per cent Toll being charged at Lakhanpur was not part of Goods and Services Tax (GST) as toll hadn't been subsumed in the GST, the Finance Minister said Lakhanpur was not only revenue point but a historical point for getting information including what kind of goods were coming and going. He added that Entry Tax and Additional Duty have been removed at Lakhanpur and only Toll was being charged. Describing growth rate of Jammu and Kashmir as close to 7 per cent, which was better than the country, Dr Drabu said: 'the better growth rate was driven by public expansion with Rs 80,000 crores worth Prime Minister's Development Package (PMDP) playing the major role. 'When our Government took over, the capital expenditure was Rs 10,000 crore while revenue expenditure was around Rs 30,000 crore. Presently, capital and revenue expenditure are almost at par, which is a significant achievement,' he added. The Finance Minister said horticulture and trade sectors have been showing positive growth while tourism and industry have shown less growth. Tourism was related to the situation as very few tourists visited the Valley during last two years due to disturbed conditions. He announced that Jammu and Kashmir will completely shun the system of treasuries and switch over to Pay and Accounts Office (PAO) from January 1. 'By March 31, the changeover will be complete and the State would usher in new system of the PAO'. Shortly, the Government will introduce Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme on pilot basis in two Departments including Social Welfare and Public Works followed by others. Surprisingly, Dr Drabu said, demonetization didn't hit economy of Jammu and Kashmir as much as it hit India. 'Majority of issues of GST pertaining to J&K have also been resolved except carpets. Industry has been given some relief under SGST and CGST while some more relief could be announced in the budget,' he added. He disclosed that revenue collection of the State has been better than budget projections as earlier there were always shortfalls. 'This was possible due to better expenditure management'. Drabu said it was due to 'better financial management system' put in place during last about two and half years that there were no pending salaries of SSA teachers or others and GPF of employees was being cleared within 24 hours. Shortly, the Government will try to put an end to the liabilities.