With just three months to go for the assembly elections, Maharashtra finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar on Tuesday presented a “political budget" with an emphasis on the drought-hit farm sector.
Out of the state’s annual plan outlay of ₹99,000 crore for 2019-20, nearly ₹31,000 crore will be allocated to agriculture and allied services. Mungantiwar had presented an interim budget in February.
With an estimated revenue of ₹3.34 trillion and income of ₹3.14 trillion, the budget estimates a revenue deficit of ₹20,292 crore. Mungantiwar, however, said the state government will come up with austerity measures to rein in the deficit and this will reflect in the revised estimates.
This is the last full budget of the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena government before Maharashtra goes to polls in October. Mungantiwar said all six budgets presented by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) since March 2015 had made three to four times higher allocations for the farm sector than the budgets presented by the previous Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government.
“We have made substantial investments in the agriculture sector over the last five years and it shows in the relatively high agriculture output even in those years when Maharashtra received less than normal rainfall. The investments we have made have helped farmers reduce the cost of production and raise output due to water conservation schemes," Mungantiwar said at a post-budget press conference. He said the NDA government aspired to make Maharashtra a trillion-dollar economy by 2025.
The state finance minister may have set an ambitious target, as frequent droughts and low farm output have restricted the growth rate to just about 7.5% in the last two fiscal years.
Mungantiwar agreed that the state had been hit hard by the less than average rainfall in four of the five years of NDA’s rule.
“But growth in the agriculture sector is not the only driver of the trillion dollar economy dream. There are other drivers as well, such as the micro, small and medium enterprise sector, and employment generation there, infrastructure, social sectors, and services sector. We are focusing on all these sectors and the trillion dollar dream can be realised," he said.
The senior BJP leader also pointed out that when the NDA took over the reins in October 2014, the gross state domestic product was ₹16,49,647 crore. Now its stands at ₹26,60,318 crore.
While Maharashtra’s debt was estimated to be over ₹4.14 trillion for 2019-20, Mungantiwar said the state government had been successful in bringing down the percentage of interest on state debt to the revenue receipts from 14.49% in 2014-15 to 11.19% in 2019-20.
The opposition Congress and NCP, criticised the budget, calling it a “big disappointment" for farmers and unemployed youth.
Leader of the opposition in the legislative council, Dhananjay Munde, said the NDA government had let the farmers and youth down, even after they had voted wholeheartedly for them in the Lok Sabha elections.
Maharashtra Congress president and former chief minister Ashok Chavan said the consistently rising revenue deficit reflected an utter lack of fiscal planning and prudence on the part of the NDA government.