Welcoming the broader consensus reached in the house regarding various reformative initiatives flagged in the Budget 2017-18, Minister for Finance, Dr Haseeb Drabu today said it marks the beginning of a progressive trend with the members in agreement that there has to be a tangible roadmap for the economic development of the State.
He said the Government is aiming at streamlining the expenditure under the current Budget with systematic spending initiatives adding that the reforms introduced in the budget are a first steps towards bringing economic stability in the State.
“The Government has benefited from the exhaustive discussions on the Budget proposals and various valid points have been made by the members during the debate,” Dr Drabu said while winding up the discussion on the Budget in the Legislative Assembly today.
He said the contribution of the members would come handy for the successful implementation of the reforms and initiatives proposed in the Budget.
Responding to the points raised by the legislators, Dr Drabu said the first budget, presented by this Government, focused on macro-budgetary matters wherein the fiscal strategy was outlined; in the second one, attention was paid to distributive issues pertaining to allocative efficiency. He said present Budget focuses on the micro-budgetary reforms; operations of Government programs and executing agencies.
“This budget is devoted to improving the operational efficiency of spending,” he said.
“We may have political and ideological differences but during the discussion on the budget all the parties came together with their progressive inputs aimed at development and growth of the State,” he said and added that such discussions are essential for successful implementation of economic reforms and policies in the State, and it strengthens the basics of constructive dialogue and debate.
Dr Drabu assured that the funds allocated under this Budget will be released on time and all the formalities will be done in a time-bound manner.
Enumerating on the main proposals of the budget, Dr Drabu said an effort has been made to streamline and speed up spending of Government resources for which a timeframe has been set for release of funds. He said 50 percent of funds under the Revenue and Capex budget will be released to various departments by 10 February 2017 for expenditure to be made from 1 April 2017 adding that it will have great impact on efficient and effective utilization of funds and for the first time, a legislative approval will be sought for the release of said funds.
To overcome the difficulties and shortcomings of current process of budgeting, releasing, and distributing the Budget within the Government authorities and booking the expenditure against the budget, this Budget proposed computerized budgeting system known as “Budget Estimation, Allocation and Monitoring System” (BEAMS) and in next few years, complete change can be witnessed in the whole budget system, he said.
The Finance Minister said the proposal to move away from the old system of Treasuries to Pay and Accounts Offices (PAO) will also help in removing delays and plug leakages in the system.
Speaking about the security cover to the crops against damages from natural disasters including hail, floods, draught etc, Dr Drabu said the Government has formulated a comprehensive insurance scheme for nine crops for which the provision of Rs 75 crore in the budget has been made for the purpose of premium subsidy. Similarly, assets of public importance, Government buildings and vehicles will be provided insurance cover.
Creating a social security system for all the registered construction workers in the state is a major initiative for the welfare of the working class, which will also push financial inclusion and the DBT system, he said adding that by providing insurance cover to these workers, the Government will be covering almost 15 lakh families under the scheme.
The Finance Minister said that the Public Enterprise Reforms proposed in the budget are necessary for their growth and stability. “This budget has initiated the financial reengineering of the PSUs which had been promised by this Government,” he said.
Speaking on the issue of GST, the Finance Minister said that the Government is working out the modalities regarding implementation of of the new regime in GST Council meetings. “We will look in which form we accept it in our State,” he said and added that GST is beneficial for everyone and J&K will examine it closely so that the State gets best out of it.
Dr Drabu said the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley as a Chairman of GST Council has taken a cooperative federalist approach towards financial governance and has actively involved and taken inputs from the State Finance Ministers during the financial policy formulation processes and Pre-Union Budget discussions.
Responding to the issue of waiving off of KCC loan, the Finance Minister said that payment of first tranche has been made to 74265 identified borrowers. “By March 31 this year, Rs 250 crore allocated for KCC loan waiver will be distributed to cooperative banks, J&K Grameen Bank and other banks,” he said.
Responding to the issue of regularization of the casual workers of various categories, Dr Drabu said the process will start in the course of the next financial year and the Government is committed to address this social issue on priority.
With regards to the issue of pay anomalies, the Minister said that Government will undertake extensive review and rework to address this concern.
Dr Drabu said that the provision of making an equity infusion of Rs 532 crore is merely an effort to help J&K Bank on its road to recovery and urged the legislators that it should not be seen out as a bailout package. He assured the house on maintaining autonomy of J&K Bank.
Addressing the issues raised by the legislators regarding lack of attention paid to Ladakh region, he announced Rs 2 crore each for Leh & Kargil to clear its past liabilities besides making provisions to include local crops like barley and apricot under the Crop Insurance Schemes.
The Finance Minister thanked the Legislators for their valuable inputs and assured no dearth of funds and will meet all budgetary targets and initiatives with the support of all members of the house.