Shimla, March 18: Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh on Friday blamed the 13th Finance Commission and increased salaries of state government employees for the high debt burden of the hill state.
Replying to the budget debate in the assembly, the chief minister said the high debt was mainly due to a sharp reduction in revenue deficit grants given by the 13th Finance Commission during 2013-14 and 2014-15, coupled with the increased salary burden.
The revenue deficit grant of Rs.2,232 crore for first year (2010-11) was reduced sharply to Rs.406 crore in the last year (2014-15) of the Finance Commission’s duration, he said.
The opposition BJP, including former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, said the per capita debt of the state stood at Rs.47,284 and debt and gross state domestic product (GSDP) ratio 39 percent compared with 21 percent at the national level.
Virbhadra Singh said there was overestimation in the recommendations of the 13th Finance Commission on account of share in central taxes for 2013-14 and 2014-15.
“Actual receipts during these two years was less by Rs.528 crore compared with the amount estimated by the Finance Commission.”
He said that despite limited resources, Himachal succeeded in bringing down the debt to GSDP ratio to 34.8 percent in 2014-15 as against the target of 40.1 percent fixed by the Finance Commission.
Further, he said, the state government raised all market loans only after obtaining the Centre’s approval.
“We are aware that increasing debt liability is a matter of concern which requires special attention,” said the chief minister who also holds the finance portfolio.
Also citing the low tax base as one of the reasons for high debt, the chief minister said the state had been making efforts to increase the tax revenue through efficient tax collection.
The state’s tax revenue from its own resources was Rs.4,626 crore in 2012-13, which increased to Rs.6,341 crore in 2015-16 and was likely to increase to Rs.7,469 crore in the next fiscal.
On the Bharatiya Janata Party’s apprehensions over the use of solar/electric fencing to protect crops from wild animals, Virbhadra Singh said the electric shock from such fences would not be fatal for either animals or humans.
Not satisfied with the government’s reply on alleged procurement of LED bulbs at higher rates, the BJP staged a walkout from the assembly.
The Himachal government has distributed 51 lakh bulbs among the consumers.
The cost of Rs.100 per bulb was realised on cash payment and Rs.105 on equated monthly instalments.
The assembly’s budget session commenced on February 25. It was adjourned for a week’s break on Friday. The house will reassemble on March 28 for the remaining nine of the 25 sittings.