Jaitley pushes states to up infrastructure, anti-poverty spending

New Delhi, Feb 6 (IANS) State governments must spend more on infrastructure and anti-poverty programmes, particularly after an increase in monetary allocations based on the 14th Finance Commission report, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said here on Saturday.

“It’s been a tradition to meet the states to discuss the budget and other economic issues. They gave their suggestions for more resources,” Jaitley told reporters after the meeting, that was called ahead of the national budget for the next fiscal, due on February 29.

“Most states suggested that they have been concentrating on anti-poverty programmes, particularly on the agricultural sector,” he said and assured the states of more funding by the Centre.

“But resources of states have also increased after the 14th Finance Commission. We want states to use these for anti-poverty schemes,” he said after the two-hour long meeting, adding: “We also hope they will spend further on infrastructure creation.”

Speaking to reporters, West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra also said that the central government must keep its promise of releasing more funds to states. “The last budget had promised 10 percent more devolution to the states,” he added.

Tamil Nadu Finance Minister O. Panneerselvam said his state was particularly hit by some of the Finance Commission’s recommendations.

“We have been adversely affected due to this horizontal sharing formula,” he said, drawing a distinction between vertical allocations where states can spend the allocated money as they desire, as opposed to transfers based on parameters like poverty levels and fiscal prudence.

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