Experts pick holes in Drabu’s budget

Moazum Mohammad

Srinagar: Although the state budget has been widely hailed as promising, a few of its aspects have been criticised by economic and development experts.
Prof Nisar Ali, who has taught economics at Kashmir University and former member of State Finance Commission, said a separate budget for power was “budgetary bluff”.
He said that presenting a separate budget for power makes no sense because all sectors of the economy, including power, were in deficit.
“A separate power budget had been passed during PDP-Congress rule too, but the NC-Cong coalition government did away with the segregation,” Ali said, while dismissing the analyses lauding the budget as “innovative”.
“It’s not a target oriented budget. I fear the initiatives such as doles offered to girl child up to 14 years of age will remain on papers only because no database (on the number of girls in this age group) is available with the government,” said Ali.
During pre-budget interactions with the media, Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu had said that his focus will be to do away with the “dependency syndrome and begging-bowl mindset”, a reference to state’s total dependence on the Centre for most of its finances. According to Ali, there is nothing concrete in the budget that will make the state less dependent on imports in agriculture and allied fields.
“The state annually imports food grains worth about Rs 1600 crore per annum. If the government wants to remove the dependency syndrome the budget should have suggested measures on how we can become self-reliant in food grain production,” he said.
Also, Ali said the budget offers no short-term or long-term measures to fight unemployment, which is a major challenge for the government.
International policy development expert Peer Ghulam Nabi Suhail said the Dal development bond floated by the government would put financial burden on the exchequer as the state will have to pay interest on these.
“Selling bonds is not the only way to raise funds. The government could have sought permanent or one-time funding from the Centre or even support from external agencies such as the UN could have been explored,” said Suhail.
He said the privatisation of the Lakhanpur toll tax plaza would benefit the state financially in the long run but it cannot guarantee eradication of corruption. Suhail said flood relief and rehabilitation plans are not clearly defined in the budget, neither has any provision been made for allocating capital for rehabilitation measures.
“Giving monthly allowance to girl child is a welcome gesture but there should have been welfare measures for disabled people and patients with chronic diseases,” Suhail added.
Prof Mohi-ud-Din Sangmi, head department of business and financial studies at Kashmir University, however, said this budget is not just an income and expenditure statement but a plan aimed at making the state self-sufficient.
“There’s lot of thrust on boosting the economy of the state. Some problems confronting the industry and traders have been addressed,” Sangmi said.
He said while the budget has offered asara scheme for the widows and destitute, there is no such scheme for the elderly.
“There is no scheme for creating jobs through skill development,” he said.