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A please-all surplus budget
Posted: Thursday, 26 Feb 2015 at 6:04 PM
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State budgets have a limited interest, all the more if they are presented before the Union Budget. This time the FIR against Governor Ram Naresh Yadav under the Prevention of Corruption Act just 24 hours before the presentation of the state budget in the assembly on Wednesday further dampened public curiosity. 

State finance minister Jayant Malaiya had a job to do, and he did it as well as he could by presenting a Rs 5,588 crore revenue surplus budget for 2015-16, the eleventh since the BJP was voted to power in 2003. Given the fact that VAT was slashed by more than half on a slew of consumer goods, the budget was immediately termed as “populist” by level headed critics and political opponents alike. Mr Malaiya, however, described the budgetary exercise as a marriage of  “good politics and economics.”.

With the result that total expenditure at Rs  1,31,199 crore shot up 12 per cent compared to the previous year. Total receipts were projected at Rs 1,30,815 crore.  VAT was more than halved on as many as 40 items like gas geysers, biofuel run smokeless stoves, school bags, bangles, locks and keys, gas stoves, soya milk powder, shoe polish, razor blades as well as on aviation fuel, bicycles made in MP and shoes and slippers. Stuff like pan masala, natural gas, CNG, sand, and procurement of gun licenses, however, were slated to become costlier.

Infrastructural development was given the attention it deserved. Outlay on power zoomed to Rs 9,500 crore (from Rs 7,500 crore) though the bulk of the increase would be eaten up by subsidy to farmers. About Rs 15, 749 crore was set aside for school education with the stress on “swacch Bharat, swacch vidyalaya”. Industry had less to crow about despite the Rs 6,550 crore allocated to self-employment and charting out development plans for smart cities.

Financial analysts observed that Mr Malaiya could have chosen to be fiscally meaner and leaner since polls were more than three years away. But the government’s continuing travails with the Professional Examination Board (PEB) scam and the Congress’ relentless efforts to implicate chief minister Shivraj S. Chouhan nudged him to adopt a softer approach. THE END    

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