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Gujarat budget: Focus on farmers, unemployed youth; Congress boycotts finance minister's speech

Vijay Rupani government in Gujarat on Tuesday presented a Rs 783-crore surplus budget.

Gujarat budget: Focus on farmers, unemployed youth; Congress boycotts finance minister's speech
Pic courtesy: IANS

Gandhinagar: The newly-elected Vijay Rupani government in Gujarat on Tuesday presented a Rs 783-crore surplus budget that focuses on farmers and the unemployed youth, the harried sections which gave lots of heartburns to the incumbent BJP in the December polls.

The Opposition Congress boycotted the budget speech by finance minister Nitin Patel alleging that farmers are suffering under long BJP rule and blamed it on the low minimum support price for farm produces.

The budget has allocated an additional Rs 41,553 crore more for developmental spends at Rs 1,11,565 crore in FY19, while non-development expenditure is estimated at Rs 70,012 crore, Patel said, adding, "of the development allocation, 57 per cent is towards the social sector."

The budget Rs 1,83,666-crore has seeks to mop up an additional Rs 106 crore from higher levy on liquor consumed by permit holders and tourists in this dry state and has pegged fiscal deficit for 2018-19 at 1.71 per cent of GSDP or gross state domestic product.

There is no other levies in the budget that will affect the common man.

It can be recalled that BJP's tally in the December polls came down to 99 from 115 in a 182-member house, while the Congress has massively gained. And the main reasons for this poor show were the rising distress in villages due to low prices for agri produces and the high unemployment levels in urban centres leading to quota agitations.

And the budget has all te eyes and ears on these issues. Accordingly, Patel in his budget speech said, "the focus of this budget is farmers' welfare, agriculture, employment for the youth, irrigation, water supply, social justice, education, health, nutrition, traffic management and infrastructure."

The budget provides Rs 785 crore for creating jobs to an estimated 3.50 lakh youth, of which 30,000 will recruited directly by various state agencies, he said.

For farmers, the budget makes a total provision of Rs 6,755 crore towards agriculture, farmers' welfare and for the co-operatives. Another Rs 27,500 crore is allocated for education, while health and family welfare get Rs 9,750 crore.

"Keeping in mind the strength of the state economy and the buoyancy in revenue receipts, size of the budget for the next year is pegged at Rs 1,83,666 crore compared to Rs 1,72,179 crore in 2017-18," Patel said, adding tax revenue till January grew 20.92 per cent.

"As per the quick estimate, GSDP at current prices in 2016-17 has grown 13 per cent over 2015-16," he said.

"Due to prudent fiscal management and lower market borrowings, we have been able to keep fiscal deficit in 2016- 17 at 1.42 per cent of GSDP against 2.24 per cent in 2015-16," he said, added the fiscal deficit for 2018-19 is estimated at 1.71 per cent.

The minister projected a reduction in the state's pubic debt at 15.96 per cent of GSDP for 2018-19 from 16.46 per cent in 2017-18.

While increasing tax on liquor, Patel said the excise duty and other levies on liquor have not been revised since FY2000, and therefore he plans to generate an additional Rs 106 crore by hiking the same.

The walkout by the Congress members came after a party legislator Harshad Ribadia, who threw groundnuts in Well of the House when Patel was reading the budget speech, to protest against the BJP government approach towards MSP.

He alleged that farmers are not getting sufficient price on groundnuts and other produces. Following a strong objection raised by the treasury benches over Ribadia's action, speaker Rajendra Trivedi evicted the Congress member, forcing the rest of the Opposition to walkout.