The Assam government on Thursday presented a Rs 3.22 lakh crore budget for the 2023-24 financial year, announcing funds for promoting micro-entrepreneurship and 40,000 fresh recruitment in different departments.
The budget estimates for the 2023-24 fiscal also announced plans to roll out a flagship housing scheme in line with the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), covering one lakh beneficiaries, and allocated Rs 800 crore for the purpose.
Presenting the budget in the Assam Assembly, Finance Minister Ajanta Neog said the government will invest Rs 5,000 crore over the next three years to “transform” over 2 lakh unemployed youths from BPL and low-income households into job creators.
For the purpose, Rs 1,000 crore was allocated in the next fiscal, she stated in her 86-page long budget speech.
Neog said 40,000 people will be recruited in various departments by May 10 to mark two years of the Himanta Biswa Sarma-led government and fulfil the BJP’s poll promise of giving one lakh government jobs.
“Our government already provided employment to about 42,000 youths across various departments… The remaining 18,000 are at various stages of recruitment, and this will also be completed very soon,” Neog said.
To boost the MSME sector, a capital subsidy at the rate of 10 per cent of the fixed capital investment with a ceiling of Rs 50 lakh is being proposed under the ‘Mukhya Mantrir Laghu Udyog Udagoni Aachoni’, she said.
“It is anticipated that this will result in the creation of more than 3,000 new MSMEs with a direct employment potential of approximately 25,000 jobs,” she added.
She said the GSDP, which grew by 10.25 per cent from FY’18 to FY’22, is estimated to grow to Rs 5.5 lakh crore during the next financial year from Rs 3.93 lakh crore in 2021-22.
The aggregate receipts amount to Rs 3,21,742.71 crore for 2023-24, while the aggregate expenditure is estimated at Rs 3,21,081.75 crore, the finance minister said.
Thus, the transactions during the year will result in an estimated surplus of Rs 660.96 crore, she added.
“This, together with the opening deficit of Rs 1,596.19 crore will lead to a budget deficit of Rs 935.23 crore at the end of the year 2023-24,” Neog said.
On the housing programme, she said the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) is an ambitious scheme and over 20 lakh houses have already been geo-tagged and out of that, 15.5 lakh households are eligible.
“We have received the sanction for 3.3 lakh houses till now from the Centre and we are expecting this number to increase in the future,” Neog said.
The ‘Mukhya Mantri Awas Yojana’ (MMAY) is being launched to supplement the Centre’s programme to provide affordable housing with assistance of similar amount as of PMAY.
“In the year 2023-24, one lakh beneficiaries will be covered under this scheme and I am allocating Rs 800 crore towards this,” she added.
The finance minister also proposed the exemption of electricity duty on renewable energy generation.
“Further, I propose the extension of the tax holiday on agricultural income tax for the next three years,” she said.
In order to further promote the use of electric vehicles, she announced motor vehicle tax subvention of two per cent along with registration fee exemption on purchase of EVs next fiscal.
To control rising crimes in Guwahati, the government will install CCTVs at public and other sensitive places for an amount of Rs 200 crore, the budget for FY’24 said.
On the farm segment, the government agencies have procured more than 3.43 lakh MT of paddy compared to total procurement of 98,335 MT as on March 15, 2022, Neog said.
“With an increased MSP of Rs 2,040 per quintal, we have a target to procure 10 lakh MT of paddy by the end of the current Kharif Marketing Season this year,” she added.
Under the Assam Micro Finance Incentive and Relief Scheme 2021 (AMFIRS), Neog allocated Rs 500 crore to give relief to debt ridden poor women borrowers of the state.
For the first time, the state will carry out e-auction of major minerals such as limestone and iron since the promulgation of the amended Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, and aims to generate revenue of more than Rs 10,000 crore over the life of these mines, she added.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma hailed the budget as a document for ensuring socio-economic empowerment and equitable growth of all sections, while the Opposition parties claimed it was more like an “election speech”, aimed at creating only individual beneficiaries.
Stressing on the Rs 5,000 crore allotment to provide self-employment opportunities to two lakh youths, Sarma said this step will prove immensely helpful for the youths.
He maintained that budgetary proposals such as waiving of microfinance loans, monetary allotment to self-help groups, health insurance schemes and housing schemes will ensure equitable development of all sections.
“I congratulate the finance minister and her team of officials for preparing a budget that reflects the potential of a new and resurgent Assam,” the CM added.
Leader of Opposition Debrabrata Saikia of the Congress, however, alleged that the budget was prepared with the aim to reach out to the voters only.
He said, “The schemes announced are mostly with an eye on the elections next year. For instance, a self-employment scheme has been announced today. It’s very similar to one in the days of the previous BJP-led government in the state, which didn’t create any entrepreneurs as promised.” He claimed that suggestions given by an expert committee to boost the agriculture sector, which is the primary means of livelihood in the state, were not reflected in the budget.
“The economic survey report has also not been given to us yet,” Saikia added.
Congress state president Bhupen Kumar Borah also slammed the budget as a “document to appease the voters”.
“The budget presentation was more like an election speech than a blueprint for addressing burning issues like poverty, inequality and unemployment,” he maintained.
AIUDF legislator Aminul Islam claimed the government was focusing on creating individual beneficiaries.
“It looks like an ambitious budget, but there is not much in it. The schemes are only about creating individual beneficiaries,” he said.
He maintained that though some allocation has been made towards the education sector, there was not much on other social sectors.
Trinamool Congress state president Ripun Bora maintained that the state budget is heavily dependent on the Centre for implementation.
“There is no roadmap for overall development of the state. Core issues like unemployment are not addressed comprehensively,” he added.
Have a story to share? Email us [email protected]