No fresh tax has been proposed in Himachal budget for 2018-19, which leaves an uncovered deficit of Rs 7,061 crore, while cumulative fiscal deficit has been pegged at Rs 7,821 crore. Presenting his first budget, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, who also holds the finance portfolio, announced 28 new schemes, nine-point programme for doubling farmers income by 2022 and incentives for hydro-power, tourism and industries to boost investment. Jai Ram said that several new initiatives have been announced in spite of resource crunch, but a shortage of funds will not come in the way of development and focus would be on agriculture, horticulture, tourism and industry to boost investment and generate employment.
The liability of interest payment will be Rs 4,260 crore during 2018-19 compared to Rs 3,718 crore in 2017-18 due to mounting debt burden and borrowings of Rs 4,500 crore will be required to bridge the revenue gap. The maximum expenditure of Rs 11,263 crore will be incurred on salaries Rs 5,893 crore on pensions, Rs 4,260 crore on interest payment and Rs 3,632 crore on loan repayment and Rs 2741 crore on maintenance, leaving Rs 16,392 crore (39.56 per cent) for development and implementation of other schemes. Out of every Rs 100, the state revenue receipts will be Rs 27.13, share in non tax revenue will be Rs 21, while 45.34 would come in form of central grants and gap of Rs 26.54 will be covered through loans.
The chief minister announced that grant under “Vidhayak Khsetra Vikas Nidhi Yojana” will be raised to Rs 1.25 crore, and provision of Rs 220 crore will be allocated towards state food subsidy scheme. He also announced hike in daily wages to Rs 250, four per cent additional interim relief to employees and pensioners, reduction on power tariff for farmers from Rs 1 to 75 paisa per unit, lowering the age from 80 years to 70 years for providing old age pension to all and withdrawal of levy of certain goods carried by roads (CGCR) on apple, other fruits and vegetables from 2018-19.
The chief minister said Rs 1,134 crore will be spent under the World Bank funded Horticulture Development Project, Rs 500 crore to be spent for Command Area Development in five years, Rs 277 crore for Minor Irrigation Schemes, Rs 85 crore for Medium Irrigation schemes and Rs 250 crore under a new scheme for irrigation. A new “Flow Irrigation Scheme” with an outlay of Rs 150 crore for next five years and Solar Irrigation Scheme with a budget outlay of Rs 200 crore for next five years will be lunched.
Subsidy of 40 per cent will be given on machinery for setting up of “Agriculture Equipment Hiring Centres”, Rs 32 crore for subsidy to farmers/horticulturists on power weeders and power tillers etc. Jai Ram said that Rs 150 crore have been proposed for upgradation and opening of new mandis under World Bank project, investment subsidy of 50 per cent will be given for bio-pesticides plants, freight subsidy of Rs 1 per litre to dairy cooperatives to compensate for collection and distribution of milk. The number of days for providing employment under MGNREGA will be increased from 100 to 120 in view of drought for 2018-19 and Moksh Dhaam will be constructed in each panchayat in a phased manner.