Economist Drabu Presenting His Second Budget on Monday

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Dr Haseeb A Drabu.
Dr Haseeb A Drabu presenting budget in 2015 in this KL file Image.

J&K’s Finance Minister Dr Haseeb A Drabu has given final touches to his budget proposals for 2016-17 that is being presented to the state assembly on Monday. This is going to be Drabu’s second budget in his political career.

For the last few days Drabu has been working on the budget and a team of special translators have been hired to render it into Urdu. All finance ministry officials were in their offices on Sunday and it is expected that they may have to spend the night in the government press till the budget proposals are printed for presentation before the assembly on Monday.

Budget for 2016-17 was delayed because there was no government in place in March forcing governor N N Vohra to sign a Vote on Account (VoA) for three months on March 28, 2016.

For three months ending June 2016, Vohra had passed VoA worth Rs 14,714 crore. Of this, Rs 9105 crore was authorized for committed expenditures (revenue expenditure) and balance Rs 5609 crore was slated to go to the developmental activities (capital expenditure).

Vohra’s VoA was not the first one in recent history. When Mufti Sayeed led PDP-Congress government took over in 2003, it preferred a VoA over a regular budget saying the state was living in a state of ‘fiscal sin’. Later, when NC-Congress government took over in early 2009, the then Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather also opted for a VoA. However, after PDP-BJP government took oath of office on March 1, 2015, its finance minister Drabu presented full budget within 22 days of the formation of the government.

The procedure was followed by governor N N Vohra when the PDP-BJP failed to mend its coalition issues after the demise of its leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.

Dr Haseeb Drabu being congratultaed by former CM Mufti after presenting budget in JK assembly in 2015.
Dr Haseeb A Drabu being congratulated by former CM Mufti Mohammad Sayeed after presenting budget in JK assembly in 2015.

Drabu, however, is not new to state finances. As Economic Advisor of the J&K state, he was personally responsible for all the budgets between 2003 and 2008. His interventions in the public finances now make the main edifice of the public kitty.

It is too early to have an idea about what Drabu will unveil in his budget but a general impression is that it will focus more on service delivery of the government agencies, plugging loopholes in the public kitty and addressing the issues of the marginal sections of the society. It obviously will have certain initiatives to offer some kind of directions to the state economy that is reviving after devastating 2014 September floods.

In his first budget on March 22, 2015, Drabu had anticipated state’s expenditure for 2015-16 at Rs 46,473 crore against clear receipts of Rs 42,137 crore leaving balance Rs 4336 crore to be funded by grants from 14th Finance Commission. However, the expenditure of the state appreciates as the year passes on. The exact expenditure of the state government would only be known on Monday when he offers a clear idea of actual spending in last 14 months.

Notably, some of his initiatives in last J&K Budget were copied by the Union Government which has already presented its budget in Parliament in March this year.

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