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Budget boost for border

- Tuki says Arunachal faces fiscal challenges

Itanagar, July 26: Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Nabam Tuki today tabled the state budget with a deficit of Rs 140.02 crore.

Prepared in tandem with the state’s medium-term fiscal plan and in accordance with the recommendations of the 13th Finance Commission, Tuki, who also holds the finance portfolio, tabled the budget with total receipt of Rs 9455.54 crore against total expenditure of Rs 9595.56 crore.

Tuki spoke at length about the health of the state’s economy. Informing the House that the “state government has been facing enormous fiscal challenges”, Tuki blamed expenses incurred by insufficient transfers in the form of non-plan revenue deficit grants as the primary reason for the ill health of the state’s finances.

Stating that the implementation of the sixth Pay Commission in the state “considerably” increased the fiscal gap, Tuki claimed that the state had never defaulted in payment of salaries, wages and pensions. His claim contradicts an earlier statement three days ago that Rs 75 crore would be released to clear outstanding salaries of government employees.

Tuki sought to create avenues for income generation in a state highly dependent on central funds. He said “emphasis will be given to plug leakages in tax revenue collection”.

Taking a cue from Union finance minister Arun Jaitley — who defended the NDA’s recent rail fare hike when he said that users must pay for services — Tuki said: “The state’s revenue can improve with the increase of non-tax revenue by enhancing charges for public utilities.”

Setting up of special economic zones (SEZs) which figured in the Congress’s election manifesto, also found mention in the budget. Tuki provided Rs 50 lakh in his budget to set up SEZs.

In an effort to address employment and development issues together, Tuki also proposed setting aside Rs 5 crore to formulate a “loan-cum-subsidy scheme for eligible unemployed youths to set up stone quarries for speedy completion of road work” in the state.

Tuki also said that the enhanced DA for central government employees would be extended to include state government employees.

While the chief minister was not interrupted during his entire speech, an interjection came when Tuki mentioned his final policy initiative.

He proposed that the MLA local area development fund be increased by Rs 25 lakh from the present Rs 1 crore. This proposal got all the members thumping their tables, prompting Tuki to quip: “Finally, everyone is paying attention”.

Tuki’s budget also laid special emphasis on developing the state’s border areas.

He said the chief minister’s welfare scheme, which will provide 10kg of free rice and 1kg of salt per family every month, would be launched for people residing in villages along the international border with an allocation of Rs 10 crore. The budget also set aside Rs 5 crore for a loan subsidy scheme that will allow individuals to purchase medium-sized vehicles to be used exclusively for transporting commodities to border villages.

Most of the villages along the state’s 1,680km international boundary are impeded by unfavourable soil conditions where farming yields little results.

This has led to largescale migration of people from the borders to the few urban centres of the state. Tuki hopes to repopulate the areas by strengthening the public distribution system.

An amount of Rs 2 crore has also been allocated in Tuki’s budget to improve power connectivity near the international border through non-conventional sources of energy since power transmission and distribution lines are not laid out in these areas.