Syiem says ‘clueless’ budget can’t address fiscal problems

 CM insists State grew steadily despite challenges

SHILLONG: KHADC chief executive member (CEM) P.N Syiem, who is also the MLA of Mawsynram, castigated the State Government on Monday over the deficit budget presented in the Assembly last week and termed it as “clueless, hopeless and a budget marked by paralysis”.
Participating in the general discussion on the budget in the Assembly, Syiem said the budgets presented in the last four years were repetitive and did not show any improvement in the State’s fiscal health except for adopting poor methods of tax enhancement, thereby putting the people of the State in jeopardy.
About Chief Minister Mukul Sangma’s budget speech, the Mawsynram MLA said it was not a financial speech but a departmental one as some departments have got more funds while others have got paltry amounts.
“We as members do expect that the budget should be healthy and bring new hope to the people of the State. But this is a hopeless budget that has made people frustrated and desperate,” he said.
The fiscal health of Meghalaya, which has potential in human and natural resources, could be improved if the Government knew how to tap all the resources and reduce revenue leakages, Syiem said.
With the NGT ban on coal mining and 50 per cent reduction in liquor business, Syiem wondered how the Government would achieve its revenue target.
“If the financial position of the State is so bad and unhealthy, how will we take care of the people and protect their interest,” he said.
He said law and order and state financial stability are interdependent and if fund allocation to any scheme needed to be cut, it should be the Chief Minister’s Black Topping and Rural Programme.
However, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma maintained in the House that the State has continued to grow despite challenges. In fact, the growth rate was higher in the last few years and was more than some of the bigger and wealthier states, he said.
With regards to the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP), Sangma said in respect of 2015-16 it was Rs 26,745 crore and in 2016-17, it was estimated at Rs 88,497 crore, an increase of 9.82 per cent.
The chief minister added that GSDP in 2014-15 grew at 14.7 per cent and in 2015-16 it was at 10.9% and 2016-17 budget estimates was at 10.5%.
“We continue to maintain our debt GSDP ratio at 27 per cent and we have not crossed 30 per cent, these are indicators of the fiscal health of the state,” he said.
On the State’s weak fiscal health, Sangma said in 2013 the Government had promised many important things but it did not foresee future challenges like the NGT ban and other judiciary interventions. Despite that, the Government is making every effort to keep the fiscal health under control, said Sangma.
‘Inefficient Council of Ministers’
Slamming the Cabinet, Syiem said the budget reflects the inefficiency of the council of ministers. He made a pitch for a more progressive budget by whichever government comes to power in 2018.
“I am sad to see there is no policy to protect the financial needs of the poor people,” Syiem said and added that contractual and casual employees have also been terminated from their services.
Syiem criticised the ministers who, he said, are constituency-centric rather than state-centric.


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