Vasundhara Raje presents a surplus Budget

JAIPUR, MARCH 24. The Chief Minister, Vasundhara Raje, today presented a Rs.977.38-crore surplus Budget for Rajasthan for the year 2005-06 in the State Assembly. Against a deficit Budget of Rs.334.39 crores for the year 2004-05, Ms. Raje, who holds the portfolio of Finance, could achieve this "rare feat'' in the current year with the help of the provisions of the 12th Finance Commission and a little bit of fiscal management on her part.

The more than two hours long Budget speech of Ms.Raje, which started about half an hour late than the scheduled time of 12 noon, following the main Opposition Congress raising an issue of procedure, had no major fresh tax proposals barring a few "adjustments''. Her tax concessions, also part of "rationalisation and simplification'', in all amounted to Rs.70 crores.

The 30-minute delay followed the Congress member, C.P.Joshi, raising a point of order about the start of the Assembly at 12 noon today instead of 11 a.m. as was announced by the Speaker, Sumitra Singh, when it was adjourned on February 23. Prof.Joshi and the Leader of the Opposition, B.D.Kalla, and the former Chief Minister, S.C.Mathur, quoting rule books said the Speaker could not have changed the time as the House was not adjourned sine die.

The Speaker put an end to the issue by pointing out that the time was to be changed for facilitating a live telecast of the Budget speech. The members could have been taken into confidence about the change of time but it did not make them miss the House as the time was not advanced she said asserting her competence as Speaker to decide the time.

After the initial protest the Opposition sat quietly in the House for rest of the speech. Only two BSP MLAs in the House boycotted the Budget when they were not allowed to make a statement.

The total revenue deficit for the State for the year 2005-06 stood at Rs.1,523 crores. The capital receipts were estimated at Rs.12,523 crores against a capital expenditure of Rs.9,551.81 crores. This leaves a balance of Rs.2,500.28 crores. Against the estimated deficit of Rs.334.39 crore the previous year, the real deficit had been brought down to 6.89 crores, Ms.Raje noted.

The concessions offered by Ms.Raje include reduction in the tax on HDPE and PVC pipes used for irrigation, cement pipes, V-belts, certain farm implements. The CST on milk products has been brought down from four per cent to two per cent while the 2 per cent tax on maida has been dropped. The tax on apparatus used in tissue culture and bio-technology has been abolished.

Tax rebate has been announced on items directly housewives and children like cooking oil, matches, utensils, ready made garments, hosiery, cycles, ball point pen, computer and its accessories including software. "Women and children have a special place in my mind,'' she said.

The other recipients of Raje bonanza include the tourism sector, aviation industry, and the captive power manufacturers, marble and stone industry. The new tax proposals are in the form of entry tax, registration fees and the income from regulating of the Rajasthan Sales Tax structure.

"There is no need to hurt anyone. If I can help it I would do my revenue generation without punishing people. This approach worked the previous year. Our revenue collection had been 15 per cent higher last year. I hope it works that way again,'' Ms.Raje said in her interaction with the media persons later. "I except cooperation from everyone--the public, the NGOs and the Centre,'' she said.

Ms.Raje said the State had received Rs.200 crores less from the Centre as is share of taxes the previous year. The State also had spent an additional amount of Rs.260 crores for dispensing off the dues of the old pension schemes. "Despite this we could bring down our deficit from 22 per cent to 15 per cent,'' she pointed out.

Claiming a better fiscal management in the State than during the time of the previous Congress Government, Ms.Raje in her address said against 704 days overdraft from December 1998 to December 4, 2003, her Government did not have even a single day's overdraft from February 10, 2004 to till now.

Ms.Raje, emphatic on the collective decision of the Bharatiya Janata Party ruled States not to implement VAT from April, challenged the Centre's preparedness for the same. "We sought a six month's more time for implementation but they did not agree for it even when their computer system would take another six months to get fully ready,'' she noted.

"We asked for the roadmap and the set of compensation in place of the CST. The Centre could not give any assurance on this. A consuming State like Rajasthan would only suffer under dispensation if not properly compensated,'' Ms.Raje said.

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