Bengal gets R8,750-cr central aid

Written by fe Bureau | Kolkata | Updated: Aug 8 2011, 06:52am hrs
The Centre has finally granted West Bengal a special area package of R8,750 crore, but together with allocations the entire financial assistance adds up to R21,614 crore for the state.

According to finance department officials, although the package shows a whopping R21,614 crore, real assistance has been to the extent of R8,750 crore on account of Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF).

The rest R10,158 crore is on account of allocations to various central government schemes for which the state will have to provide matching grants.

The central government has also raised the states borrowing ceiling by R2,706 crore, which has also been included in the financial package.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee pointed out that most of the funds that have been allocated under various central schemes were supposed to come to the state in normal course.

However, the R300-crore allocation made for agriculture, R100 crore for solar power and R90 crore for Maoist-area development are special allocations.

The state will have to provide matching grants to avail these funds, officials said. The Centre has also increased the market borrowing ceiling from R17,828 crore to R20,234 crore for 2011-2012. So far, West Bengal has borrowed R11,100 crore from the market. The state government will be able to borrow another R9,306 crore from the market for the rest of year.

Raising the borrowing ceiling by R2,706 core should not be considered as a component of assistance, since the money will not come from the Centre.

The state would have to raise it and thereafter make additional expenditure on account of debt services. But the extra limit would give the state some more headroom to source funds, according to Banerjee.

The Centre has increased its share in some of the schemes like the East-West Metro corridor, National Rural Health Mission, National Rural Drinking Water programme and others.

However, with West Bengal already committing to an increase in its share by R2,200 crore, the Centre will have to increase its amount of grant to match the Centre-state sharing ratio, finance department officials said.

This package will give some cushion to West Bengal in managing the bad state of finances that was left behind by the earlier Left Front government, Banerjee said.