Riyaz Ul Khaliq
After presenting his second state annual budget, J&K Finance Minister, Economist Dr Haseeb A Drabu Monday said that the biggest challenge that his government faces is the “capacity to spend the resources”.
Addressing a presser soon after presenting the budget, Dr Drabu said, “we have allocated around Rs 22000 crore for developmental works. Now, it is institutional capacity to spend the money allocated thereof.”
He said with the announcement of budget, the PDP-BJP government is scheduled to spend Rs 180 Crore a day. “I don’t think there is dearth of resources but the capability to spend the resources which we have.”
Detailing the “institutional and systemic fraud” done in J&K Governance structure from time to time, Dr Drabu said, “this time, we have tried to reform the system. There are grave discrepancies; I don’t blame anyone but one can imagine that since 1984, Provident Fund of employees is missing. Governments haven’t paid it to the employees.” He said that the systems have not followed rather violated, systematically.
He said that the “missing” Provident Fund amounts to more than Rs 14000 Crore. “Governments have used that money for salaries and other things to pay bills which essentially mislead people and now we are not in a position to pay them this time but will be paid in instalments in future.”
Dr Drabu further said that the J&K Government is facing an annual liability of Rs 7000 Crore a year in power sector. “State faces losses in Transmission and Distribution (T&D) and we are improving on that so that we save money,” he said, “on the other hand, we try to get away with subsidies for a certain class so that we save money from that side as well which will help in reducing the liabilities.”
He said that the government is facing Rs 2500 crore as deficiency in power sector while it is giving around Rs 1728 crore as subsidy to its customers. “We have tried to make the reforms pro-poor,” he asserted, “we will be giving 30 units of power free a month to BPL class which essentially means we have incentivised it. If a customer uses 30 units of power, he pays nothing but if he exceeds, he will not be given free power.”
He rued the system saying that five lists of reserved categories have been prepared which has actually created mess in the situation. “CAPD comes with its own BPL list, so comes PDD and social welafre and other departments; we have asked for a uniform and a single such list and we are waiting for Aadhaar based BPL list for that which will make our job easy and thus saving our money,” he said.
In one of the steps to revive the government education sector and make education available to everyone, the finance minister proposed waiving off the fee for girl students from class one to twelfth. It will apply from 2017 January.
To put life in the carpet industry, he said that government decided to give the industry complete tax exemption. “The carpet industry is facing crisis which is a global phenomenon. It is essentially not only ours, so we have decided to give them loans on zero percent.”
He revealed that the agriculture was facing crisis in J&K. “We have taken steps to revive it.” In response to a question, he said that the government is aware of the crisis which walnut sector is facing. “We are doing something for it as well.”
Deciphering the welfare measures which his government announced today, Dr Drabu said that “gender sensitive provisions were kept in mind while framing the budget keeping in view of Ms Mehbooba Mufti as the first woman CM of J&K”.
“Yes, she is pushing these reforms and initiatives,” he said in a response to a question whether the gender specific “announcements were customary”. “It must be to an extent.”