Meghalaya presents deficit Budget; levies taxes on liquor, tobacco

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Shillong, March 15 (IANS) The cash-strapped Meghalaya government on Wednesday levied fresh taxes on liquor, tobacco, hotels and restaurants, besides Passengers and Goods Tax for internal resource mobilisation.

Presenting a Rs 1,236-crore deficit Budget for the 2017-18 Fiscal Year, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said the state’s own resources had been adversely affected following the ban on liquor sales near the national and state highways, and educational and religious institutions.

The restrictions were imposed by the Supreme Court Committee on road safety.

With the continuing impact of the National Green Tribunal’s ban on coal mining, the revenue base of the state has reduced considerably, he told the assembly.

In order to meet the state’s shrinking revenue resources, Sangma, who also holds the Finance portfolio, levied fresh excise duty on various segments of beer, Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL)/ Extra Neutral Alcohol and other categories of IMFL.

He proposed to revise the licence fee for various categories of bonded warehouses, for retail licences and various types of bar licences, besides to revise upward the Value Added Tax on liquor.

While proposing to reduce the export fee for IMFL products to give a boost to IMFL export, the ruling Congress-led government would revise the fee for compounding and blending, reduction and bottling, distillery and brewery.

Sangma proposed to hike the closing fees for hotels, restaurants and bars and rationalise the tax structure on cigarettes and bidis.

A tax rate across all slabs under the Meghalaya Passengers and Goods Tax Act will also be increased.

Sangma, who presented the budget 2017-18 after merging the plan and non-plan outlays, said: “The state’s total estimated receipts stand at Rs 11,302 crore and total expenditure is projected at Rs 12,538 crore, thus leaving a deficit of Rs 1,236 crore, which is around 3.8 per cent of the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP).”

Sangma, who presented last Budget of the Congress-led Meghalaya United Alliance government as the state goes to polls next year, accorded highest importance to community and rural development, allocating Rs 1,731.57 crore and earmarked a plan outlay of Rs 909.94 crore for the Education Department.

An amount of Rs 712.80 crore was allocated for infrastructure like roads and bridges, Rs 420.93 crore for health and family welfare, and Rs 285.94 crore for agriculture and horticulture.

Pledging a development outlay of Rs 9.80 crore for Information and Public Relations, the Chief Minister proposed to constitute a Meghalaya Media Society to look into the welfare of the journalists, besides proposing a new scheme to provide accommodation facility for the senior accredited journalists of the state.

Sangma said that the overall security situation in the state had improved considerably, with many major militant outfits coming over ground in pursuance of the peace agreements reached with them.

“Many smaller outfits have been neutralised. A large number of cadres have surrendered. The incidents of violence, abduction and extortion have come down,” he said.

Sangma said measures were being put in place to deal with crime against women and children.

“Dedicated police officers will be entrusted to fast-track investigation into all crimes against women and children. Constitution of Directorate of Prosecution and special courts for expeditious trials and disposal of cases will result in creating a strong deterrence to perpetration of such crimes,” the Chief Minister informed.

–IANS

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