Debt-stressed Bengal on austerity drive, officials asked not to waste public money

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Kolkata, July 5 (IANS) Tightening austerity measures to keep her debt-stressed government going, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday directed officials to avoid wasteful expenditure, saying there was no scope for luxury with public money.

Three days after her government came out with a 15-point circular announcing measures to curtail “avoidable expenditurea, the Chief Minister presided over a high-level administrative meeting at the state secretariat Nabanna during the day to prepare a detailed roadmap on the matter.

“We discussed innovative measures to increase efficiency, effectiveness of governance, austerity measures, curbing of wasteful expenditure,” Banerjee told media persons after the meeting.

She said while her government won’t compromise on public services, it would be more proactive in ensuring effective utilisation of resources and manpower.

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“There is no scope for luxury in government. This is people’s money,” she said.

Turning to her government’s financial liabilities, the Chief Minister pointed out that since coming to power, it has repaid loans of Rs 2.24 lakh crore.

“This year itself we will repay Rs 46,000 crore. I need Rs 5,000 crore extra to pay additional dearness allowance to my employees. When we came to power, the state’s plan budget was Rs 11,000 crore. It has now gone up to near Rs 80,000 crore. We are spending Rs 18,000 crore on infrastructural projects,” she said.

The Chief Minister said her government has already cut cost by merging a dozen of the 63 departments.

Dwelling on areas where there could be further reduction of expenditure, Banerjee asked officials to see to it that the tenders floated were not technically faulty, as those entailed loss of crores of rupees.

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She said a committee headed by Chief Secretary Malay Dey has been formed to ensure rationalisation of manpower. “There are some departments where there is extra manpower. And again, there are departments where there is shortage of human resources. The panel will look into it and make suitable adjustments.”

The meeting also gave an outline of a plan, and a timeline for implementing them.

The Finance and Public Works Departments would start new training programmes on the austerity measures and steps would be taken to reallocate money for priority areas in case some departments were not in a position to utilise the funds sanctioned for them.

“Last year also, we saved money in some of the departments, and utilised it to build roads and give water to the people,” said Banerjee.

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Earlier this week, the government had published a ‘Circular of Economic Measures’, signed by Dey, which had put a curb on frequent travel of bureaucrats to Delhi and other states, organising conferences and meetings at star hotels, and restricted creation of new posts and purchase of new vehicles, besides announcing various other austerity measures.

–IANS

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