Maharashtra budget today amid growing clamour for farm loan waiver

By Rob 0

Mumbai: Maharashtra finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar will present state’s budget for 2017-18 at 2pm on Saturday in the legislative assembly amid a growing clamour for farm debt-waiver by legislators of all political parties.

The budget presentation is likely to witness stormy scenes in both the houses of the state legislature as the opposition Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have threatened to disrupt the proceedings if a farm debt-waiver was not announced before.

However, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis seems to have got ally Shiv Sena on board at least for the budget presentation by taking along senior Sena ministers to meet Union finance minister Arun Jaitley in Delhi on Friday to discuss debt-waiver. Though Jaitley did not commit to any concrete step regarding the farm debt-waiver in the immediate context. The Shiv Sena ministers who met the Union finance minister later indicated that they would let the budget be presented. Shiv Sena legislators and even ministers have stood with the opposition members throughout the legislative proceedings this week on the issue of farm debt-waiver.

Earlier, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray had asked his legislators to stall the proceedings if crop loans were not waived off. However, Shiv Sena leader and minister of state for finance Deepak Kesarkar said at a press conference on Friday that he himself would present the budget in the legislative council. “My party is in favour of loan waiver and my ministership is not bigger than the party’s position. But as the minister I have a duty to perform also and I will perform that by presenting the budget,” Kesarkar said.

The opposition parties, however, showed no signs of let up on the issue of farm loan waiver. Congress leader and leader of the opposition in the legislative assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil accused the chief minister of “staging a drama of going to Delhi and meeting the Union finance minister who completely ignored the state and the grave agrarian crisis”. Vikhe-Patil also mocked the Sena ministers for being the “actors in this drama” and getting nothing for the state’s farmers out of this exercise.

Maharashtra’s economic survey 2016-17 presented on Friday projected a growth of 9.4% in the current fiscal. The economic survey projected a 12.5 % growth for the agriculture and allied sector, 9.4% overall rate of growth and 11.4 % increase in actual revenue collection during April-December 2016 against the corresponding period the previous fiscal.

With the Centre not committing itself to any immediate assistance to the state on farm debt-waiver, the agrarian crisis is likely to put further stress on the state’s limited resources. “In the immediate context, with the Union government not taking any concrete steps on farm debt-waiver, the finance minister will have to accommodate the farm sector’s and political parties’ concerns in the budget,” said a senior BJP minister who did not wish to be named.

The state budget will also have to accommodate some of the non-productive but politically significant expenses that the BJP-led government has committed itself to without any concrete assurance of assistance from the Centre, like Rs3,600 crore for the Shivaji Memorial in the Arabian sea, Rs900 crore for Ambedkar Memorial at the Indu Mills compound, and a memorial for Shiv Sena founder later Balasaheb Thackeray for which the state government has approved an allocation of Rs100 crore.

The economic survey estimates a revenue deficit of Rs3,645 crore, fiscal deficit of Rs35,031 crore, and a debt of more than Rs3.56 trillion. The survey pegs the ratio of debt to the state’s GSDP at 15.7% which is well within the fiscal limits stipulated by the 14th finance commission under ‘consolidated fiscal reform path’.

First Published: Sat, Mar 18 2017. 10 36 AM IST

[Source: livemint.com]