Herald: An administrative necessity met

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An administrative necessity met

31 Jan 2019 05:11am IST
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31 Jan 2019 05:11am IST

By presenting a financial statement instead of a full Budget for 2019-20, an administrative necessity has been fulfilled, but it has not given the State a complete idea of the financial health of the State. Yes, it is a revenue surplus Budget, the third such consecutive Budget, but this remain an interim arrangement – the second such interim arrangement – of the three Budgets that this government has presented since taking over the reins of the State in 2017. 

The State Budget is a document that reveals the priorities of the government, the projects it will be taking up, the schemes it intends to introduce or revamp, the new taxes to be introduced or reduced for the year. It is for these reasons, that the Budget is the most-awaited of documents that is tabled in the House. With none of this enlisted in the financial statement, all that has been ensured is that the wheels of government will not be stopped due to a financial crisis. There were no new tax proposals or any new schemes in the Budget, but this does not mean the people won’t be taxed. The announcements will be made during the course of the year.

We have, however, a surplus Budget that has been presented, but there is no hint of what the plans of the government for the year ahead are. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar did, however, say that the government has continued to lay stress and thrust on agriculture, education, health, information technology, employment, infrastructure and the overall sustainable economic development of the State. But this remains a broad statement, with no specifics. 

The revenue surplus Budget is a surprise. Signs indicating that the government’s finances are under a strain have already appeared in the current fiscal. In the past year, the State has been selling government bonds to tide over the financial situation, and there are yet another two months before the financial year ends. Also, in October, the government issued a circular asking its departments to curb spending by 25 per cent, a circular that in the past has come usually in the last quarter of the financial year. An early issuance of such a circular – the second in 2018 as there was one issued in January of the same year – was seen as a definite sign that there is a resource crunch and that the government was concerned that over spending could destabilise the balance.

There are a number of issues that have to be taken up with urgency, and the lack of a proper Budget has pushed taking decisions on this further. Recall that last year, in his brief Budget speech, the Chief Minister had announced that it would be the year of employment and that education would be brought in tune with the industry employment potential. There was no initiative in these areas that the government undertook during the past ten months. Migration out of Goa in search of jobs has continued, as there has been no creation of employment in the State. Similarly, though last year the Budget had been presented days after the Supreme Court order stopping mining operations in Goa, there had been no mention of this in the speech, and this holds good for this year too.

The Budget, this time being merely a financial statement, is bereft of populism that past governments have resorted to when announcing the financial plans for the year. But it was not without a fair amount of passion on the part of the Finance Minister. The Chief Minister, who is battling cancer, made sure that the House and the people of the State were aware that the josh in him to serve the State is still high. The Budget, besides being an administrative necessity, did serve this other purpose.
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