Abdul Rahim Rather

Rahim-RatherHe started and ended his 2014-15 budget speech with Urdu couplets. But for the day what stood him out was his fourteenth budget presentation. And it all started ever since he was elected to state assembly with Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah as the Chief Minister.

A Chadoora born law graduate and incumbent finance minister of the state, Abdul Rahim Rather represents Chrar-e-Sharief constituency for the consecutive sixth term. He has presented state budgets in 1983, 1984, 1987, 1988, 1989, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. Besides, he has presented vote on account on two occasions.

Given the 2014 state elections, Rather presented J&K’s Rs 43543 Cr “tax-free, zero deficit” budget laced with a slew of populist measures for the year 2014-15 with a projected central annual plan outlay of Rs 11300 Cr and a PMRP component of Rs 600 Cr.

Rather was first elected to the Assembly in 1977. Since then, he has continuously won the seat. Asserting that he has made an endeavour “to present a people friendly budget” within the available resources, Rather said he and his team had made efforts to make the budget proposals representative to the urges and aspirations of the people and also stake holders.

Chairman of the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers on GST since July 2013, Rather was elected to the position after the berth fell vacant with the resignation of Bihar Finance Minister Sushil Kumar Modi.

Rather, while presenting this government’s last budget in the Legislative Assembly, skipped path-breaking reforms to come out with a safe budget quite high in populism content to suit requirements of election year.

Before the budget presentation, there were reports that Rather may follow the federal government and present a provisional budget. Unlike P Chidambaram whose mandate would lapse with the moral code of conduct for the Lok Sabha polls, Rather has his mandate with him for nearly ten months.

Election flavour was ominous when Rather in his 115 minutes long budget speech declared, “I don’t, repeat, do not propose any changes in the existing rates of taxes on any commodities or services, nor intend to bring any new service under the taxation net for the next financial year.”

I feel fully satisfied that the tax structure has come to a stable level where it can be allowed to stay for another year, he reasoned out.

– Bilal Handoo

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