Conrad delivers quickie budget

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT in Shilong
  • Published 27.03.08
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Shillong, March 27: Conrad Sangma today did what they did not teach him at Wharton Business School: present his first annual budget for Meghalaya within 10 days of debuting as minister.

There were no surprises — pleasant or otherwise — in the maze of statistics Sangma reeled off as though to the manner born, but his confidence will have impressed his mentors in the Meghalaya Progressive Alliance.

Sangma’s budget does not propose new taxes and, as everyone would have expected, comes with a deficit of Rs 125.34 crore. The Congress was quick to run it down. “This appears to be old wine in a new bottle,” party spokesman Charles Pyngrope said.

The finance minister, at 30 the youngest this state has had, said he intended to contain costs and increase revenue by implementing the recommendations of the task force constituted by the previous government. “Our expenditure has increased as a consequence of debt servicing and spiralling establishment costs, including the increased salary burden.”

The task force has suggested widening the tax base and steps to prevent evasion, both of which will be implemented over the next few years, Sangma said.

The younger of Nationalist Congress Party leader Purno A. Sangma’s two legislator sons, the finance minister estimates that revenue receipts for the next fiscal will be Rs 3,718.86 crore and expenditure Rs 3,844.20 crore. Spending on law and order will remain high because peace is a prerequisite for economic activity, he said.

A Border Management Institute at Baghmara has been sanctioned to add teeth to the campaign against infiltration from Bangladesh. The outlay for modernisation of police infrastructure, training and staff benefits is Rs 4.45 crore.

Sangma said improvement of roads, especially the Guwahati-Shillong highway, was one of the government’s priorities. The allocation for roads is the highest at Rs 16,000 lakh, followed by power (Rs 41,315 lakh), education (Rs 12,335 lakh), health (Rs 7,800 lakh), agriculture (Rs 6,120 lakh), water supply and sanitation (Rs 5,875 lakh), social welfare (Rs 5,125 lakh) and rural development (Rs 3,850 lakh).

The finance minister welcomed private participation in the power sector — a bone of contention when the Congress was in power — but said public-private deals should be transparent.

He said the government would promote horticulture in a big way to realise the goal of making Meghalaya a “fruit and flower state”.

The Assembly passed a Rs 1,003.43-crore vote-on-account for the first quarter of the next fiscal.