NEW DELHI

Virbhadra presents State budget

SHIMLA JUNE 26. The Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Virbhadra Singh, who also holds the Finance portfolio, presented the State budget today in the absence of the entire Opposition from the State Assembly. The Speaker had already expelled all the BJP MLAs and two other independent MLAs from the House when Mr Singh started his speech.

Presenting the first budget estimates of the new Government, the Chief Minister said the Government had taken a bold decision to transfer the committed liabilities up to 2001-02 to non-Plan heads in accordance with the guidelines of the Government of India. Calling it a reform-oriented budget, he said the liabilities of the Plan were not transferred previously to non- Plan heads resulting in artificially inflating the Plan size with salary-oriented programmes.

This, he said, also forced the State to borrow at high cost from the market, adding to the burden of debt and repayment liabilities. The issue after getting commended by the Planning Commission is also proposed to be taken up with the 12th Finance Commission which has been set up to assess the non-Plan revenue gap of the States.

He said the Plan size of Rs 1335 crores could be retained at least at last year's level because of personal intervention by the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee. Settting aside all misgivings about a reduction in the Plan size, he said there was an increase of Rs 331 crores this year if Rs 836 crores of liabilities of last year were transferred to non-Plan heads from the Plan amount.

He said in the Plan outlay the highest priority had been given to social services which account for 45.93 per cent of the Plan investment. The transport sector receives 18.38 per cent, energy sector 11.75 per cent and agriculture and irrigation sector 14.40 per cent of the total Plan outlay.

As for the budget estimates for 2003-04, he said the revenues receipts are estimated at Rs 4031.97 crores with an expenditure of Rs 5820.23 crores, which leaves a deficit of Rs 1788.26 crores. The capital receipts are estimated at Rs 2376.37 crores with a projected expenditure of Rs 889.94 crores, leaving a surplus of Rs 1486.39 crores on capital account. In the budget estimates for 2003-04, an opening deficit of Rs 605.05 crores has been estimated. The financial transactions in 2003-04 are expected to lead to an additional uncovered deficit of Rs 715.63 crores. The year is expected to end with a cumulative deficit of Rs 1320 crores.

On the proposed measures for additional resource mobalisation, the Chief Minister said the ban on lotteries would be lifted to earn about Rs.10 crores. The 4 per cent sales tax on the chemical fertilisers would be reintroduced, he said. The Government also proposes to levy entertainment duties and show tax in cinema houses while the tax on cement and clinker is revised to net around Rs 12 crore. The market fee on agriculture produce is increased to 2% from 1% earlier which will be used for improving rural infrastructure. The sale tax on diesel, which is at present levied at 12% is to be raised to 14% to yield an additiional revenue of Rs 12 crores while the electricity duty will be raised by 3 paise per unit to earn a revenue of Rs 2 crores.

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