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‘Topper’ but not enough
- Mitra says Bengal revenue growth highest in country

Calcutta, Nov. 23: Finance minister Amit Mitra today said the growth in Bengal’s revenue generation was the highest in the country.

Mitra did not cite comparative figures of other states. However, even if the rate of revenue generation has indeed picked up, the continuing borrowings from the market and the tardy release of funds for projects suggest that the inflow is not keeping pace with the requirements.

“We have set a target of Rs 40,000 crore for 2013-14. The projections from the first six months indicate we are on the right track. In 2010-11, before we came to power, the figure was Rs 21,000 crore,” Mitra said.

He was speaking on “Bengal’s Resurgence” at an event held by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India in Science City.

Mitra said Bengal had achieved a 31.57 per cent growth in revenue collection in the past two years, which he said was “the highest” in the country.

Senior government officials said the claim of high revenue generation was not reflected in the finance department’s day-to-day affairs.

“If there is revenue buoyancy, why is the government carrying on with its market borrowings? Besides, the slow pace of funds release for some of the chief minister’s pet projects also indicates a gap between expenditure and revenue,” an official said.

Reserve Bank data indicate that the state government’s dependence on borrowings is rising. The state borrowed Rs 2,056.42 crore in two phases in October and Rs 2,500 crore in two phases in November.

“This year, the state has borrowed Rs 14,556 crore from the market so far. It is almost certain that the borrowing limit of Rs 24,000 crore will be exhausted,” the official said.

He said the finance department was yet to release Rs 50 crore out of the Rs 80 crore sought by the Shyamal Sen Commission as the second instalment for compensating the duped depositors of the Saradha Group.

“The chief minister’s target of compensating three lakh depositors before Kali Puja could not be fulfilled,” he added. The poor funds availability has also prompted the government to reduce the compensation for each flood victim to Rs 4,200 from the Rs 10,000 promised by Mamata Banerjee.

“Finance secretary H.K. Dwivedi had told chief secretary Sanjay Mitra that the outgo would be more than Rs 1,200 crore if the chief minister’s promise had to be kept,” another official said.

Sources said the chief secretary had “explained” the situation to Mamata and she had “agreed” to reduce the amount.

Some officials said the state’s revenue generation target had been affected in the past two months by two factors.

First, the government had set a collection target of Rs 1,437 crore from entry tax in 2013-14 but the revenues have dried up since September because of non-payment by major taxpayers.

The companies have stopped paying the tax after Calcutta High Court struck down the bill through which the tax was imposed.

Second, excise collections are not rising as expected. “The government increased the rate to meet the target of Rs 3,202 crore, but the collections till now indicate a shortfall,” an official said.