Oppn warns as CM says state’s fiscal position is fine

Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah makes a point during budget discussion in the Legislative Assembly on Saturday. DH Photo

The state legislature on Saturday passed the Rs 2.40-lakh crore budget for 2019-20 with the Congress cautioning Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa that the fiscal road ahead will not be easy in the face of India’s economic slowdown.

The Karnataka Appropriation Bill was passed in both Houses of the legislature, allowing the government to draw from the consolidated fund for the remainder of the 2019-20 financial year. Earlier, the previous Congress-JD(S) coalition had taken a vote-on-account to spend Rs 80,168 crore for the first four months of the fiscal, which was then extended till October for Rs 62,751 crore. The second installment of the supplementary estimates for Rs 7,927.23 crore was also passed. 

“The gross state domestic product (GSDP) has been estimated at Rs 16.98 lakh crore, but I doubt if this will be reached,” Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah, who has presented a record 13 budgets, said during a debate on the demand for grants. “Suppose the GSDP reaches only Rs 15 lakh crore, will fiscal deficit remain below 3% (of GSDP) as required by the Karnataka Fiscal Responsibility Act,” he sought to know.

Siddaramaiah pointed out that loan borrowings should not exceed 25% of the GSDP. It was 20.26% in the 2018-19 fiscal. “But it may go up,” he said. “If the GSDP doesn’t grow as estimated, the fiscal deficit may not stay (within limits).”

According to Siddaramaiah, India’s growth rate slumped from 8% last fiscal to 5%. “That’s because of slowdown. This will reflect on the states as well. That’s why the motor vehicle tax collection in the state is low,” Siddaramaiah said, urging the government to cut unnecessary expenditure while intensifying revenue mobilisation.

The Congress also cited the Mid Year Review of State Finances report that says the state may lose Rs 1,672 crore by way of devolution of Central taxes due to cuts in corporate income tax rates. “This is our share that you must demand from the Centre because of the flood-drought situation,” Siddaramaiah told Yediyurappa. 

On his part, Yediyurappa clarified that his statement on the state’s coffers being empty was misunderstood. “MLAs were seeking funds for various works and I told one of them that we have to divert funds towards flood relief activities. I said I need time till December after which I’ll give them whatever they want,” he said. “Otherwise, the state’s financial position is fine.”

The Appropriation Bill was passed unanimously after which Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri adjourned the Assembly sine die.  

 

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