SHILLONG, March 15 - Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma today presented the last budget of the present Congress Government ahead of next year�s Assembly elections with a number of new social sector-related programmes and schemes, although the State�s deficit has climbed up.
Incidentally, this is the first time that the plan and non-plan outlays in the budget were merged to �synchronise� with the Union budget and �focus on development.�
With regards to proposed allocation of funds for different sectors, the Chief Minister said, the Government is focusing on better infrastructure, multiple livelihoods with improved access to quality education and health.
He, therefore, broadly divided the allocation into five key sectors that included sustainable development and convergence, agriculture and allied sector, community development, social sector and infrastructure sector.
Presenting a deficit budget of Rs 1,236 crore for the current fiscal with new tax proposals, Sangma said, the total receipt for 2017-18 is estimated at Rs 11,302 crore, excluding borrowings and total expenditure is estimated at Rs 12,538 crore, excluding repayments.
The deficit works out to 3.8 per cent of the Gross State Domestic Product, he informed. The fiscal deficit is way higher than the targeted three per cent of the GSDP.
He also announced setting up of a corpus fund of Rs 15 crore to ensure timely distribution of scholarships to the students. Initiatives would be taken to establish the Meghalaya Career Readiness and Life Skills Programme with focus on soft skills and employability to youths, beginning of the Supporting Human Development project to provide skills to 45,000 youths in which the first batch of 7,000 is expected to get training soon.
He also announced the setting up of the Silk Mission Society, State Dairy Development Authority, Meghalaya Organic Mission Authority, Meghalaya Fashion Designing Council, Skill Parks in Tura and Shillong and Meghalaya Media Society amongst others.
The highest allocation was proposed for the Community and Rural Development department which stood at Rs 1,731.52 crore. Sangma said that Government�s top priority would be employment generation programmes and creation of durable assets in the rural sector.
Rs 909.94 crore was proposed for Education, Rs 712.80 crore for development of roads and bridges, while for sustainable development and convergence an amount of Rs 450.20 crore was proposed. Rs 420.93 crore for the Health department was also proposed.
Sangma said one of the factors for the fund crunch in the State is because the State�s own revenue collection was adversely affected by a Supreme Court ban on sale of liquor near highways and the National Green Tribunal ban on coal mining.
To mop up additional funds, Sangma proposed Excise duty revision in various segments of Beer, Indian Made Foreign Liquor, Extra Neutral Alcohol, license fee of bonded warehouse, OFF and bars. He also proposed upward revision of Value Added Tax on liquor, late closing fees for hotels, restaurants and bars, increase tax across all slabs under Meghalaya Passengers and Goods Tax Act and rationalising tax on Cigarettes and Bidis.
Expressing optimism on the implementation of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) in the country, Sangma said, implementation of the new tax regime would bring a major change in the indirect tax administration of the country. It is generally expected that consumer States like Meghalaya are likely to benefit from the implementation of GST, he added.