West Bengal govt in financial fix after launch of flagship ‘Lakshmir Bhandar’ scheme

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November 03, 2021 5:53 PM

While the ‘Lakshmir Bhandar' scheme has been budgeted for, analysts feel that with revenue collection under stress, the expenditure on a plethora of schemes and infrastructural projects may stretch the state's cash flow management.

Renowned economist Dipankar Dasgupta lauded the West Bengal government for launching a host of welfare programmes, but wondered how it will sustain these in the wake of the post-pandemic economic downturn.Renowned economist Dipankar Dasgupta lauded the West Bengal government for launching a host of welfare programmes, but wondered how it will sustain these in the wake of the post-pandemic economic downturn. (File image)

The West Bengal government is in a quandary over funding its various social security schemes and mega-infrastructural projects, following the launch of the ambitious ‘Lakshmir Bhandar’ programme for women, a state secretariat source said.

The ‘Lakshmir Bhandar’ scheme, which will entail an expenditure of around Rs 18,000 crore annually, is aimed at providing financial assistance to women heads of families.

Under the programme, the state government has promised to provide Rs 1,000 per month to women heads of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe families, and Rs 500 per month to those belonging to general category.

“There appears to be a financial crunch in managing other social schemes after ‘Lakshmir Bhandar’ got rolling. Alternatives are being explored, including taking aid from similar programmes of the Centre, to keep the ones of the state government afloat… However, nothing has been decided yet,” the source told PTI.
“Last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state’s revenues were severely impacted. The situation has improved, but the government has stretched itself to fund welfare schemes along with ‘Lakshmir Bhandar’,” the source associated with the state secretariat ‘Nabanna’, said.

The 2021-22 state budget projected a fiscal deficit of Rs 60,864 crore.
While the ‘Lakshmir Bhandar’ scheme has been budgeted for, analysts feel that with revenue collection under stress, the expenditure on a plethora of schemes and infrastructural projects may stretch the state’s cash flow management.

The source said many in the West Bengal government feel managing finances of state schemes through similar central programmes is justified, as the Centre’s projects are funded through taxes collected from states. “So, in a way, the state’s money is coming back to it”.

A section of state government officials has expressed apprehension over attaching pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi if a portion of the assistance is derived from central schemes.

The Mamata Banerjee government has been reluctant to use images of Modi for central programmes implemented in the state.
It has also not accepted various schemes of the Centre, including the Ayushman Bharat and PM-Kisan, and instead, launched similar initiatives of its own.
At least 20 social security schemes are operational at present in the state.

Renowned economist Dipankar Dasgupta lauded the West Bengal government for launching a host of welfare programmes, but wondered how it will sustain these in the wake of the post-pandemic economic downturn.

“To run such social security schemes, you need to have a good financial backup. The state government has done a commendable job so far.

“However, I do not know where the money will come from to keep these going, after two years of economic slump due to COVID-19. It will be difficult to sustain the programmes,” Dasgupta told PTI.

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