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White paper paints dark picture of Assam’s fiscal health

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  4 Jun 2016 12:00 AM GMT

New BJP-led government inherits crushing liabilities of over Rs 10,000 crore, revenue generation at all-time low

By Our Staff Reporter

Guwahati, June 3: The new BJP-led government has inherited "committed liabilities" of over Rs 10,000 crore from the previous Congress government in the State, a White Paper on the State finces placed on the table of the House by Fince minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has stated, blaming inefficiency, corruption and lacus in the system which led to abysmal revenue growth.

While the State recorded its lowest interl revenue growth in the last three years - at an average of 1.3 percent, Sarma said no review whatsoever was done by the previous government to introspect on the lackluster performance and stagtion of revenue flow to the State exchequer.

"Even during the then PK Mahanta government in 1997-98, the State had seen an interl revenue growth of over 15 percent. But in 2012-13, the revenue growth slumped to 2.08 percent, followed by 9.10 percent, 1.39 percent and 3.39 percent in the following years. The previous government played a passive role and allowed the situation to deteriorate," Sarma said, adding that due to low interl revenue, the State was heavily dependent on the Centre.

The break-up of the committed liabilities according to the white paper is - Chief Minister's Special packages - Rs 1,358 crore, schemes initiated from SPA (Special Plan Assistance) - Rs 1,541.34 crore, regular DA for employees with effect from January 2016 - Rs 900 crore, implication of pay revision in 2016-17 - Rs 4,800 crore, past dues of State share of Central schemes - Rs 380 crore and outstanding liabilities of PWD - Rs 1,039 crore.

"It is clear that the new government has to begin the journey with an extremely negative fincial position. It is a big challenge. But we are positive that we can overcome the situation," Sarma said.

He said the only way out to deal with the crisis is to increase efficiency because there is not much scope to bring in additiol taxes.

The Fince minister however dropped broad hints that the upcoming State budget is likely to be "strong" as the government is looking at a revenue growth of 15 percent this year.

The white paper proposes a mission-mode programme, christened as ReSTART (Restructuring Systems and Technology for Augmentation of Resources for Transformed Assam) to mop up revenue generation.

The programme envisages a four-pronged action plan - to increase efficiency and ratiolize revenue collection, mobilizing exterl resources through exterlly aided projects, putting in place IT-ebled systems with "near-zero human interface" in public fince magement and real-time monitoring of revenue collection.

Rebutting Congress' charge that the rendra Modi government had slashed funds meant for the State, Sarma pointed out that from 2009 to 2013, when the Manmohan Singh government was in power, the Central fund release to the State increased by Rs 8,000 crore. "Whereas, during the last two years of Modi government, the increase in Central fund release to the State was Rs 9,000 crore," Sarma claimed.

Former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi insisted that the State finces were not as bad as is being portrayed in the white paper. "There is a balance of Rs 3,400 crore in the RBI at present," he said.

However, Sarma said that the balance in the RBI were funds of the NHM and SSA, which the State government cannot use for any other purpose.

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