Keeping its interests in mind ahead of the Assembly elections scheduled for 2024, the Andhra Pradesh government has allocated the lion’s share of the state Budget — more than Rs 54,000 crore of the total Rs 2,79,279 crore — to Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) schemes, targeting potential voter segments such as pensioners, farmers, students and women.
Finance Minister Buggana Rajendranath tabled the 2023-24 Budget in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday.
Andhra Pradesh has for long focused on governance that balances both welfare and development, and its budgetary allocation of as much as Rs 54,228 crore for DBT schemes is in keeping with that model. The increase of about 10 per cent in the allocation, from Rs 48,882 crore in 2022-23, indicates that the government has its eye on the upcoming elections next year.
The DBT schemes include YSR Pension Kanuka (Rs 21,435 crore) for senior citizens, persons with disabilities and transgender persons; YSR Rythu Bharosa (Rs 4,020 crore), which provides financial assistance for farmers; Jagananna Vidya Devena (Rs 2,842 crore) that reimburses the higher education fees of students from poor economic backgrounds; and Jagananna Vasati Devena (Rs 2,200 crore), which takes care of the hostel and mess fees of poor students who otherwise cannot afford higher education.
Other major DBT schemes are YSR Asara (Rs 6,700 crore has been allocated) which provides funds to Self Help Groups; YSR Cheyuta (Rs 5,000 crore) which aids middle-aged women financially; and Amma Vodi (Rs 6,500 crore) that incentivises poor families to send their children to school.
The allocation for education in general rose by seven per cent from Rs 30,077 crore in 2022-23 to Rs 32,198 crore in 2023-24, with the government setting aside Rs 3,500 crore separately for the Mana Badi Nadu Nedu programme launched to improve learning outcomes and reduce dropout rates.
Apart from these schemes, the government has also earmarked Rs 20,005 crore for the welfare of Scheduled Castes, Rs 6,929 crore for Scheduled Tribes and Rs 38,605 crore for Backward Classes. The allocation for Backward Classes has gone up by as much as 32.5 per cent from Rs 29,143 crore in 2022-23.
Under welfare for other communities, the Finance Minister has allocated Rs 4,887 crore for Kapu welfare and Rs 4,203 crore for Minority welfare.
However, when it comes to Health and Family Welfare, there has been only a minor increase in allocation, with the amount going up to Rs 15,882 crore from Rs 15,384 crore in the last fiscal, a change of just three per cent.
Taking into consideration the difficulties faced by people due to price rise, the Finance Minister has set apart Rs 3,000 crore for the Price Stabilisation Fund.
Other than this, an allocation of Rs 5,600 crore has been earmarked for Housing for the Poor, while the Panchayati Raj and Rural Development department has been given Rs 15,873 crore, and the Municipal Administration and Urban Development department gets Rs 9,381 crore, an increase of 6.6 percent from Rs 8,796 crore in 2022-23.
The Roads & Buildings department saw an allocation of Rs 9,118 crore, an increase of 6.2 percent from Rs 8,581 crore, while irrigation received Rs 11,908 crore, Energy Rs 6,456 crore and Village and Ward Secretariats Rs 3,858 crore.
Meanwhile, compared to a capital expenditure of just Rs 31,061 crore, revenue expenditure in the budget stood at a massive Rs 2,28,540 crore for the next fiscal.
Pointing out that the fiscal deficit for 2023-24 was low, the government said it stood at just 1.54 per cent of GSDP or Rs 54,587 crore. The revenue deficit is projected to be 3.77 per cent of the GSDP at Rs 22,316 crore.