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Debt trap looms large on Punjab, warns Congress

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Describing them as the worst proposals ever, the Opposition Congress on Friday, rejected the 2014-15 State Budget by the Punjab government, accusing it of providing details on centrally sponsored schemes, while fudging figures that pointed towards a huge debt trap that loomed over the State.

Opening the debate on the budgetary proposals, former finance minister, Lal Singh said that cumulative debt amounted to Rs 1.99 lakh crores for which the government had no resources to repay. The State would have to borrow another Rs 11,000 crore for debt servicing this year, which would further increase the burden. Mr Singh said that the debt amount had increased by a whopping Rs 61,800 crore during the last eight years of the Akali Dal-BJP alliance’s tenure. He said that loans taken by the public sector undertakings of the State had also risen to Rs 67,806 crore, which had not found mention in the Finance Ministe’s budget speech.

The cash/credit limits of the PSUs were not included in the debt amounts. Providing details about the increase, Mr Singh said that on March 31, 1997, after the Congress government led by Rajinder Kaur Bhattal completed its tenure, the public debt was Rs 15,000 crore. He said that while most of this amount was incurred by the State in fighting terrorism, many instalments were waived off, subsequently.

Mr Singh said that on March 31, 2002, after the completion of the Akali Dal-BJP alliance government’s tenure, the debt figure rose to Rs 36,854 crore, showing an increase of Rs 21,854 crore in five years. During the tenure of the next Congress government led by Amarinder Singh, the debt figures rose by Rs 15,000 crore to reach Rs 51,151 crore. At that time the PSUs owed Rs 10,322 crore.

The record of the present government on capital expenditure provided another avenue for Mr Singh to further his argument. He said that against the budgetary estimates of Rs 5538 crore, the State government could reach just Rs 1916 crore in 2012-13. In the preceding fiscal, the capital expenses remained at Rs 1360 crore despite a target of Rs 5400 crore in the budgetary estimates, which were subsequently scaled down to Rs 4000 crore. He said that the finance minister had accepted that the State government could implement just 73 per cent of the last Annual Plan, which indicated slow pace of development.

As he supported the State government’s demand for a special bail out package, Mr Singh ridiculed the treasury benches for accusing the previous UPA government for meting out a “stepmotherly” treatment towards Punjab. Mr Singh went on to list various wasteful expenses when the ruling alliance went back on its poll promises of an unemployment allowance and increasing the amount in various pensions.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 11:51:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/debt-trap-looms-large-on-punjab-warns-congress/article6228096.ece

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