An ambitious budget

Most of the budget proposals reflect the financial reforms that Finance Minister has undertaken in recent years

Srinagar, Publish Date: Jan 12 2018 11:01PM | Updated Date: Jan 12 2018 11:01PM

Jammu & Kashmir's budget for 2018-19 has rolled out a mixed bag of economic growth-oriented measures and populist interventions. It sounds like a budget of big ambition, crafted to usher in a sense of inclusion and relief to vast number of the people, who, otherwise, feel left out of the state-driven economic growth measures. The doing away of toll tax on several products and commodities from the state will provide big relief to the people at the lower level of the production chain in the state. The biggest beneficiary of the budget proposals seems to be the large number of government employees, whose long-pending demand of implementation of 7th Pay Commission recommendations and 1 per cent dearness allowance (DA) have been met. Most of the budget proposals seem to be dovetailed with the financial management reforms that Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu has undertaken in recent years. While those reforms are important in efficient utilisation of resources, they are also important for bringing in greater transparency and accountability in financial management practices within the government system. One of the most important measures of the budget is the reduction of eligibility for full pension from 33 years of qualifying service to 20 years government employees. It is a measure that will generate social security for a large number of the state's population. It will also encourage certain number of government employees for early retirement, and, thereby, creating greater job opportunities in the government sector. The finance minister's initiative of interest subvention on loans obtained in seeking higher education by students belonging to socially and economically weaker sections of the society is a thoughtful decision as well. What, however, sceptics are highlighting is the inability of the budget in demonstrating how it would generate greater internal revenues and decrease the ever-increasing dependence on central government grants. It is good to note that the tourism industry has received due attention in this budget. Tourism sector in the state, especially in Kashmir, is reeling under an economic slump for a long time now. Bringing hotels and resorts at par with the industries vis-à-vis payment of power tariff is a move that has been widely welcomed. While on one hand, the recapitalisation of cooperative banks like the Anantnag Central Cooperative Bank, Baramulla Central Cooperative Bank and Jammu Central Cooperative Bank does signal government's sensitivity to the financial health of the cooperative banks, it also demonstrates the crisis within cooperative banks in recoveries and generating profits.

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