Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI: Heading for Assembly elections later this year, Delhi Finance Minister A. K. Walia on Monday presented Budget 2008-09 which he described as “development-oriented” and one showing that “through various social welfare schemes the State wants to look after the people well”.

While not imposing any new taxes, the Budget lowers the incidence of Value Added Tax on locks, CFL bulbs, electronic chokes, sweets, namkeens and embroidery and zari items thereby making them cheaper. It also proposes to lower the VAT rate for fibre board and particle board made from agricultural wastes. The prime objective of the Budget, the Minister said, was to provide relief to the needy. Thereby on the lines of increasing old age pension from Rs.400 to Rs.600 per month from April 2007, the Government has also decided to enhance the monthly pension for senior citizens and widows from Rs.600 to Rs.1,000 per month from April 2008.

Arrears to be waved

Dr. Walia said that to benefit disabled persons and provide them with unemployment allowance the eligibility condition for Employment Exchange registration for two years has been done away with. The norms for “social welfare entitlements” have also been relaxed by allowing people with higher annual incomes to avail themselves of various benefits.

Significantly the Government has also decided to write off and waive old irrecoverable arrears and claims from the public relating to the pre-power privatisation period by compensating the power distribution companies with the due sum of Rs.2,539 crore. Of this, Rs.1,530 crore is the principal amount and Rs.1,009 late payment surcharge. This waiver, Dr. Walia said, would benefit nearly 5 lakh people as they were earlier facing difficulty in getting power connections.

The Budget estimate for total expenditure for 2008-09 is Rs.20,200 crore, including Rs.10,000 crore as Plan outlay, Rs.10,100 crore for non-Plan expenditure and Rs.100 crore for Centrally Sponsored Schemes. Dr. Walia said the Plan outlay of Rs.10,000 crore would be financed from the city’s own resources up to Rs.8,712 crore while Rs.1,288 crore would be Central Assistance. A sum of Rs.819.93 crore has been kept in the Budget for the Delhi Metro Rail Project in 2008-09. The Shahdara-Dilshad Garden metro corridor is expected to be completed during the year, making it the first corridor of Phase II of the project to become functional. Likewise, a sum of Rs.641.21 crore has been kept for the DTC that would be buying over 4,000 new buses, including 850 air-conditioned buses, with it.

During the Annual Plan 2008-09, Dr. Walia said work of seven new flyover and roads would be taken up and nine such projects would be completed. The budget has made an outlay of Rs.743 crore for taking up developmental works and sanitation services in the unauthorised colonies. The Minister also said the Government had decided to give a subsidy to 23 lakh domestic consumers and 9,410 agricultural consumers for one year by neutralising the tariff hike order of the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission.

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