Himanta tables White Paper on Assam’s fiscal health

Guwahati, June 3 (IANS) A day after Assam Governor P.B. Acharya presented a dismal picture of the state’s finances, state Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Friday tabled a White Paper on Assam State Finances in the assembly and said the new government has a liability of Rs 10,000 crore.

Pointing at the former Congress-led government for the dismal financial situation of the state, Sarma, however, said the new government’s intention is not to blame anyone but just to inform the citizens about the actual reality of the public finances as the new government assumes office.

“It (the White Paper) is an honest attempt to find out the reality of the state finances and accept the same in order to devise an innovative and prudent strategy to strengthen the institutional mechanism to yield positive results in sustained manner over a period of time,” he said, tabling the White paper.

“The state has witnessed increased budget size in successive years. However, while the budget size increased, the expenditure remained low, indicating that the whole budget making process was reduced to non-serious exercise,” he said, adding that the main reason for the low expenditure has been lack of proper financing of the budget.

Sarma also pointed out that the internal resource growth in the state has also reached the lowest of mere 1.39 percent in 2014-15.

“During the last four years from 2012-13 onwards, the revenue growth was abysmal. Even before this period, there were occasions of single digit growth in 2007-08 and 2010-11 and that was the time the government should have made serious attempts to make systematic corrections. The figures of state revenue collection speak volumes of poor governance of revenue administering departments and resultant leakages,” he said.

“When I was the finance minister of the state in 2003-04, the growth of state’s internal resource was 25.44 percent. However, in the subsequent years the state government has failed to generate revenue from its own resources,” he said, adding that it is not only the lowest ever in the country but lowest since Independence of the country.

The White Paper mentioned that the state, in order to attract incentive grant of mere Rs 300 crore from the 13th Finance Commission during 2010-2015, tried to achieve revenue surplus.

“This was taken on record by the subsequent commission which led to its recommendation of a very low amount of revenue deficit grant of only Rs 3,379 crore during 2015-20. Thus for the strategy to attract an incentive grant of Rs 300 crore, the state has been deprived of substantial grants during the current five year period,” the White Paper said.

Assam Governor Padmanabha Balakrishna Acharya on Thursday proposed to revitalize the fiscal health and suggested an initiative, Restart Assam (Restructuring systems and technology for augumenting resources for transformed Assam).

Acharya said this while addressing the first session of 14th Assam assembly and added that the budget size has increased several folds year after year without sanctity of keeping the commitment in flow of resources, the state of affairs of state finances is alarming.

–IANS

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