For an early start, govt to present budget in January

SRINAGAR: Finance minister Dr Haseeb Drabu will be presenting next year’s budget in January, which will enable the government to make resources available by March ending and start public works by April, when the working season actually begins in the Valley, an official spokesman said.
Speaking at a three-hour long budget preparatory meeting of the administrative secretaries, Drabu asked them to formulate expenditure policies of their respective departments regardless of the resources required, while emphasizing that the quality of expenditure was more important than the quantity of resources, which he said is the only way to ensure that the surging transaction costs on governance are used to affect productive changes, the spokesman added.
Early presentation of the budget and its review by August will ensure that its objectives are met satisfactorily and course corrections like re-allocation, re-appropriation are initiated in time in case of any problem.
The minister said the biggest problem with JK’s economy is that the system is not able to spend more due to low working period and other issues.
“So what I propose is to start early, so that planning and tendering process kick-starts in right earnest and development activities do not suffer on this count and are insulated from vagaries of nature and short working seasons in some areas,” he said.
He said the budget should not be about numbers but must outline the fiscal policy and development strategy of the government and must be directed towards policy outcomes on government priorities.
“Expenditure efficiency must define the outcome of expenditure and for this we can attempt zero budgeting than incremental budgeting, which is in vogue,” he said.
He said availability of resources comes only next to the quality of expenditure.
“We may have lot of resources but more important is how we are spending and for what?” Drabu said and called for institutional audit and social audit going side by side.
He said the 14th Finance Commission award has made it abundantly clear about the availability of resources with the state government which must encourage us to use it properly and as per our priorities with emphasis on improving absorption capacity of the state.
Drabu suggested the state’s General Administration Department should move beyond the routine transfers and become the Human Resources Development (HRD) cell of the state government, and the IT department should get converted into a service that facilitates governance.
He said IT is the only platform that can help J&K reduce the transaction costs of the governance, which, right now are the highest in the country.

Quality of expenditure more important than resources
Outcome of expenditure needs to verified in terms of assets created
Govt moving towards a simple Revenue and Capital budget a layman can understand
Economic survey to be conducted in August for latest data
State evolving a new economic policy aimed at devolving more powers to departments
Departments should keep part of the budget aside for maintenance of assets

Similarly, he said the state’s Planning Department should evolve into a Capex Strategy and Monitoring department. This will give the particular department a new role in wake of the policy shifts at the federal level.
Stressing on increasing the efficiency of resources, the finance minister said that after spending the money, the state should be able to verify the outcome in terms of assets created.
The Finance Minister said the government is going through a process to clean up the budget and make it clearer to public. We are doing away with the complexities like Plan and Non Plan definitions and moving towards a simple Revenue and Capital budget which even a layman can understand, Drabu said.
The Finance Minister also called for postponing the economic survey towards the middle of next year. “The current economic survey in March contains figures of last September which doesn’t serve any purpose. So let us do the economic survey in August which will be based on the latest data of the same year,” said Dr Drabu.
The Finance Minister said that the real value of the budget is not its size of revenue but its quality and structure, which the state is trying to achieve. The state is trying to evolve a new economic policy which would be different than the past practice based on control finances, the finance minister said. I want to make the system autonomous and devolve more powers to departments, he said.
Emphasizing importance of management of assets that state government is creating, Drabu said maintaining the assets almost equals creation of assets and every department should keep part of the budget aside for maintenance of assets.
Dr Drabu also called for social audit of all institutes to determine what they are doing with public money. “We have some outstanding technology and research institutes like Universities and Hospitals which take money from us but we don’t know what they do. The Social Audit will help us to see their achievements. May be some of them have a patent or two and that will become a goldmine for us,” said Dr Drabu.
The Finance Minister also expressed his concern over Centrally Sponsored Schemes, for which state will ultimately have to find the resources to fund.
Dr Drabu asked the department to give priority to complete old projects before taking up new projects. To contain the rising prices of land and provide an alternative to investments, Dr Drabu also proposed to float Land Bond.
The Finance Minister asked the health department to explore Public Private Partnership model in case of some health institutes and diagnostic centres. For education he asked the concerned department to explore e-learning, smart classes for urban as well as rural areas.
Regarding various state corporations, the Finance Minister said that the government will work to clean them up and divest over a period of time.

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