January 2018 News

Jammu & Kashmir Budget With A 'heart' To Change Economic And Political Narrative

12 January 2018
The Economic Times
Hakeem Irfan

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu presented a 'please all' budget in the assembly offering huge tax and loan exemptions to struggling businesses, announcing implementation of 7th pay commission for government employees and giving BPL incentives to transgender people of the state. Ahead of the crucial Panchayat elections scheduled in February, finance minister presented separate Panchayat budget with a provision of Rs 1000 crore and also promised transfer of 10 percent of state taxes to Panchayats and Urban Local Bodies for their empowerment and functioning. The budget opposition claims is a failed attempt of the government to please different stakeholders to re-establish its waning credibility due to mounting charges of misgovernance, corruption, civilian killings and uncertainty on ground due to militancy. The opposition leader Ali Muhammad Sagar of National Conference termed the budget as a 'trickery of numbers' with nothing to offer for youth who are desperately joining militancy to express themselves. Drabu claimed that this is a budget with a 'heart and conscience' and an attempt to develop a 'new financial architecture' that will not only change the economy but also the 'political and civil society narrative' in the state. The budget points out at the difficulties and problems businesses faced due to 2014 floods followed by 2016 political unrest which were only compounded by the policies like demonetization and Goods and Services Tax. 'This is a budget structured to address real problems on ground. The finances of the state government are looking good and the impact will definitely reach to people,' said Drabu, after presenting the budget in winter capital Jammu. The budget focuses on the welfare of around 4.5lakh government employees and 1.5 lakh pensioners, giving them benefits of group insurance, 1 percent Dearness allowance, besides reducing the number of years for pension eligibility. Assured career progression scheme for all technical employees under gazetted cadre has been assured in the budget, besides incentivizing the postings in rural areas. 'I have tried to build a social security net around poorest of the poor now as the systemic changes of last three years are paying off. The fiscal deficit of the state is actually 5.7 percent compared to earlier 9.5 percent,' said Drabu The government has decided to pay 33 percent of the total interest of all the RBI approved restructured accounts in the state and Rs 200 crore have been set aside for this. The government has also decided to establish dry ports in Jammu and Kashmir in collaboration with a Dubai based company to help the industry grow manifold. The finance minister also granted waiver of penalty and interest on arrears of tax in respect of all the dealers registered in the state under VAT and Sales Tax Act. And also waive off interest and penal charges on the power arrears of Small Scale Industries. To promote tourism, government has also announced electricity tariff for hoteliers at subsidized rates as per the norms of the industries. For students from weaker sections of society who secure admissions in different Universities in the country and abroad, at post-graduation and PhD levels would also be provided interest subvention on the education loans till the completion of the course. JK chief minister Mehbooba Mufti also stated that the budget was and development focused and people oriented and by focussing on panchayats, has fully displayed the commitment of her government to strengthen local self government in the state at political, administrative and financial levels.