News Karnataka
Friday, January 27 2023

Pandemic to populist schemes: K’taka in fiscal soup

MUDA Budget proposal
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Bengaluru: Karnataka, which has vibrant automobile, agro, IT, aerospace, textile, biotech and heavy engineering industries, is showing a worrying trend due to impact of pandemic and natural calamities.

Despite being the cradle of startups and known as Silicon Valley of India, Karnataka took a huge hit on the financial resources from 2020-21 till date. The state’s public debt rose to 31.38 per cent between 2019-20 and 2020-21, creating a precarious financial situation.

The result of the pandemic has been such that, according to the 2020-21 finance and appropriation accounts report published by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), the government recorded a drop of Rs. 14,535 crore in tax collection.

The total debt of the state went up from Rs. 3.19 lakh crore to Rs. 3.97 lakh crore, an increase of Rs. 78,000 crore, forcing the government to put some ambitious and populist programmes in abeyance.

Losses incurred in SGST, State Excise duty, sales tax, stamps and registration and vehicle taxes. However, the non-tax revenue increased marginally from Rs. 7,681 crore to Rs. 7,894 crore.

According to Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, the growth of GSDP has decreased by 9.28 per cent in 2019-20 and 2.23 per cent in 202-21 from 10.71 per cent in 2017-18 and 11.50 per cent in 2018-19.

The government had to deal with a severe drought situation when it assumed power in 2019, and then adding more woes, half of the state was affected by flood fury. Later, the Covid pandemic further complicated the financial situation of the State. During the tenure of Chief Minister B. S. Yediyurappa, no major populist programmes could be doled out. Presently, his successor Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai has a tough job in hand as he is to present an election year budget on March 4.

The CAG report also shows that the government had to increase its borrowings. Effectively, the resultant impact has pushed the interest component to Rs. 22,666 crore or 14.6 per cent of the State’s revenue receipts which is placed at Rs. 1.56 lakh crore. The CAG has also noted that 13 projects of irrigation, 41 of roads, three of bridges and one in others category remained incomplete for over five years.

Ashwathnarayan, State BJP General Secretary, told IANS that as political parties are in the race to woo voters with social welfare schemes and freebies on the lines of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, CM Bommai is inclined towards middle class and the upcoming budget is not going to be a fancy budget.

When asked whether the BJP is not under pressure after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal delivered free essential services to people, he said that Delhi is a mini state, it does not include farmers, mass transport system, irrigation projects, law and order system and even medical education. It is more like a municipal corporation area. Free electricity, free water and other populist programmes are not practically feasible in a large state like Karnataka.

Basavaraj Tonagatti, SEBI RIA, Fee-Only Financial Planner, CFP and Finance Blogger, told IANS that If you look at last year’s budget, you can notice that debt servicing increased to 21 per cent from 2019-20 to 2020-21. However, the capital expenditure increased just by around 5 per cent. This shows that the government is borrowing more but not diverting the same towards capital expenditure. It also shows that the government is not spending on creating assets, in particular physical infrastructure like roads, railway lines, factories, ports, etc. “Hence, I hope this year they manage their debt and divert the spending towards capital expenditure,” he said.

Though government is saying everything is fine, private investment has been going down for a long time, consumption is down, unemployment is high.

Abdul Azeez, Honorary visiting Professor of Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISAC), Bengaluru said that the pandemic has decelerated economic growth, increased unemployment and strengthened inflationary pressures, as a result of which the programmes of social justice have taken a hit.

The focus is to encourage consumption. If consumption increases, inflationary pressure will remain high. Already retail inflation has gone up to 6 per cent and wholesale by 11 per cent, he said. The government should think of providing necessary assistance to producers and they should be ensured of supply of electricity and water, he added.

Pavan Srinath, Independent Policy Researcher, said, “we need a growth oriented budget. We need to spend more. In the central budget also, capital expenditure has been increased. There is rural distress, high unemployment, the government should use its capacity to spend more.”

During the Congress regime, when Siddaramaiah was at the helm, he rained sops and freebies on people through bhagya schemes. The freebie blitzkrieg was so much that raised a debate whether these freebies are making people lazy.

Kannada writer S. L. Bhyrappa and Jnanpith recipient Chandrashekar Kambar came down heavily on Siddaramaiah government on Annabhagya scheme. Bhyrappa said, it is not possible to make poor people self-reliant through schemes like Anna Bhagya. The trend is very dangerous.

Chandrashekar Kambar maintained that freebies have made a deep impact on labour attitudes and the farming sector. When you take care of almost all the basic needs of the people – be it food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, children’s education, there is little motivation for work hard. Instead, the government should enable poor people to lead a dignified life, he said.

Rubbishing the criticism, Siddaramaiah said he will continue to implement schemes to bring poor people into the mainstream. Only hungry people will understand what is hunger. However, he suffered defeat in the following general elections.

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