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State govt takes steps for financial discipline

By R Dutta Choudhury

GUWAHATI, June 13 - As the COVID-19 pandemic has posed a threat to the economy, the Assam government has adopted a series of measures for bringing in financial discipline and from now on, all the departments will have to get administrative clearance from the finance department for taking up new projects. However, there will be no shortage of funds to provide relief to the flood-affected people.

Highly placed official sources told The Assam Tribune that earlier the government departments were allowed to give administrative approval for projects up to Rs 2 crore. Now the rule has been changed and such approval will be given by the finance department. Sources admitted that the new rule would help in bringing in financial discipline, but at the same time, the possibility of the rule slowing down the pace of development cannot be ruled out.

Sources however expressed the hope that the Assam government would be able to tide over the crisis as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has also increased the borrowing limit of the State by two per cent. The RBI action would be of great help to the State in this hour of crisis. Moreover, the State�s revenue collection that nosedived during the first phase of the lockdown, improved considerably and the government is hoping that it would increase further in the coming days.

The government has also taken some other steps to reduce expenditure and holding of meetings, seminars, etc., in five-star hotels have been stopped, while no officer can now go on any training programme with government money. The salaries of ministers and MLAs have also been cut for the year and though this would not bring in much change in the economic scenario, it would sent a message across to everyone.

Sources said the fight against the pandemic did not cost much to the State exchequer as money provided to the State under the National Health Mission is also being used for the same, while some benefits provided to the people were already declared in the budget. It is a fact that some amount of money was spent on providing financial assistance to the people of the State stranded outside but that should not affect the overall economic health of the State much, sources added.

Replying to a question on whether the development activities would be affected due to the current situation, sources said all the departments have been directed to prepare project reports of the new schemes at the earliest and to ensure completion of ongoing projects within specific time frame. Sources admitted that all the flood control schemes could not be completed on time before the rainy season because of the lockdown and considering the gravity of the situation, the government allowed taking up of the schemes with social distancing even before the process of lifting of the lockdown started.

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