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Why isn’t capital expenditure moving up?

2017-18 budget expense

By our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, April 5: The Assam government on Thursday claimed in the State Legislative Assembly that it could spend about 70 per cent of the total budgetary allocation during 2017-18 and said it is a record. Out of this 70 per cent, about 57 per cent went as revenue expenditure while the rest, about 13 per cent, went to capital expenditure. In other words, only about 13 per cent could be spent on infrastructure development – the most crying need of the hour. This is intriguing.
Under revenue expenditure come salary, pension, wages, establishment cost etc as well as interest paid against loans, whereas under capital expenditure comes assets creation for roads, bridges, buildings etc – all for infrastructure development that is so crucial for the all-round development of the State.
Laying the expenditure statement of the fincial year 2017-18 in the House, State Fince Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said it is a great success for the State government that it could spend 70.49 per cent of the total budgetary allocation during the previous fiscal. “It is a record. It never happened before. During 2015-16, the Congress government could spend only about 55 per cent of the budgetary allocation, while during 2016-17 when we came to power, it rose to 69 per cent. Last year, it further rose to 70.49 per cent. The next year’s target is about 75 per cent,” he said.
According to the minister’s statement, nine departments could spend less than 50 per cent of the budgetary allocation, the lowest spenders being the Water Resources Department (19.8 per cent), Tea Tribes Department (29.3 per cent), Industry & Commerce Department (31.1 per cent) and Guwahati Development Department (19.5 per cent).
When asked why such departments had a poor show, Sarma said, “I can’t give you the correct answer. These departments might have had their own obligations for low spending, but we had cleared about 97 per cent of the ceilings that had come in from these departments. So much so that we had also released Rs 1,000 crore in advance as our part in the centrally sponsored schemes so that works could be accomplished on time.”
When asked on the amount spent on the salary head, the minister had no clear answer. “I can’t comment on this exactly. The Accountant General will be giving a report on government expenditure in September, and then the picture will be clear.”
Sarma further said salaries are just not salaries as generally understood, and the salaries given to teachers, for instance, can be thought of as a development measure as they teach students and help make better future for them.
However, during the budget of 2017-18, the amount considered under the revenue head was Rs 79,256.54 crore while under the capital head it was a mere Rs 20,196.54 crore.

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Ankur Kalita