Finance minister hints at massive graft during previous Congress regime, claims last nine months ‘golden period’ for the State’s economy
BY OUR STAFF REPORTER
GUWAHATI, April 20: Assam has recorded the highest growth rate in the country in terms of revenue collection and expenditure in the just concluded financial year 2016-17, claims State Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
Addressing a press conference here on Thursday, Sarma said, “The last nine months was a golden period for the State’s economy. In these last nine months, revenue collection and expenditure growth has increased manifold compared to financial year 2015-16. Even the Centre has praised the present Assam government for this achievement.”
“In 2016-17, the State government collected Rs 15,620 crore ‘own tax revenue’, as against Rs 12,848 crore collected in 2015-16 — which is Rs 2,772 crore more i.e. 21.6 percent in comparison. This rate of increase is the highest in the country, which recorded an overall growth rate of 18 percent in revenue collection,” Sarma said.
It may be mentioned that a State’s ‘own tax revenue’ consists of tax revenue and non-tax revenue.
The Finance Minister further said, “In the last fiscal, we collected tax revenue of Rs 12,180 crore. The collection of tax revenue was Rs 10,077.26 crore in 2015-16, the last financial year of the previous Congress government. We have thus collected Rs 2,000 crore more as tax revenue than the tax revenue collected in 2015-16.”
As for non-tax revenue, the present State government collected Rs 3,500 crore including oil royalty in 2016-17. In 2015-16, non-tax revenue collected was Rs 2,188.09 crore, the Finance Minister added.
Sarma hinted at the possibility of large-scale corruption behind the lower revenue collection during the previous Congress regime in the State. “In the last 9 months, we have just streamlined the tax collection and expenditure,” Sarma said.
Mentioning the Forest department in particular, Sarma pointed out that in the year 2015-16, the revenue collected by the department had shown a sharp downturn, compared to the previous financial year. “Significantly, 2015-16 was also an election year in the State,” added Sarma.
On the expenditure front, the Finance Minister said, “From the 2016-17 budget, Rs 53,561 crore expenditure was made by the present government, while it was Rs 39,804 crore in 2015-16 during the last days of the Congress government. So, there is an increase in expenditure of Rs 14,000 crore in the last nine months after our government came to power, which is 34.56 percent in terms of expenditure growth rate. This too is highest in the country.”
“In 2016-17, the plan fund expenditure was Rs 18,893 crore, which is 64.46 per cent of the plan fund allocation. In 2015-16, the plan fund expenditure was Rs 11,215 crore, which was 37 percent of the plan fund allocation,” Sarma pointed out.
It may be mentioned that plan funds are spent for development activities.
Sarma further said, “In 2016-17, Rs 43,340 crore out of Rs 53,562 crore was spent digitally by the government. In the coming fiscal, we will try to spend 95 to 99 percent of the budget expenditure digitally. In 2015-16, digital expenditure was Rs 33,357 crore. We spent more than Rs 10,000 crore than the previous financial year. Digital revenue collection in 2016-17 was Rs 8,343 crore but it was Rs 6,775 crore in 2015-16. The Chief Minister presented the detailed report of digital expenditure and receipt to the Prime Minister who expressed his happiness over the progress made by the present State government.”
“We have already reduced the financial burden left on us by the previous Congress government by Rs 20,000 crore,” he said.
When asked what would be the tax collection scenario in the 2017-18 fiscal, Sarma said, “GST will come into force from July 1. Nobody knows what will transpire out of it but we hope that our tax collection rate will not go below 20 percent.”