Having faced Patidar agitation and lost several seats in the agrarian belt of Saurashtra, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Gujarat government announced a farm-friendly budget for 2018-19 that also looked to address critical issues such as unemployment and ongoing water crisis.
While the state tax revenues for April 2017 to January 2018 grew by 20.92 per cent as against the same period last year, deputy chief minister and finance minister Nitin Patel announced fresh levy as well as revision of excise duty and other fees on foreign liquor to boost revenue surplus for 2018-19.
"Our policies are geared towards the inclusive development of the state. The revenue surplus of the state has increased from Rs 17.04 billion during the year 2015-16 to Rs 59.47 billion during 2016-17. This surplus has been used for incurring developmental capital expenditure by the state. In addition to this, the fiscal deficit which was 2.24 per cent of GSDP in 2015-16, has come down to a record low level of 1.42 per cent of GSDP during 2016-17," Patel said while presenting the state budget.
As against an expected surplus of Rs 13.43 billion in 2016-17 due to net transactions on the basis of revised estimates (RE), the accounts for 2016-17 indicate a surplus of Rs 1.27 billion due to net transactions.
However, the expected surplus of Rs 2.39 billion for 2017-18 estimates increased to a surplus of Rs 10.52 billion in the RE. Further, laying out the estimates for 2018-19, Patel said that the government expects a surplus of Rs 7.83 billion in the new fiscal.
On the back of buoyancy in revenue receipts in 2017-18, the overall budget size for next year was revised to Rs 1.8 trillion, up from Rs 1.7 trillion for the current year, Patel said.
Cautious enough to present a farmer-friendly budget, the outlay for agriculture, farmer welfare and co-operation sector saw a total outlay of Rs 67.55 billion, of which Rs 11.01 billion went towards crop insurance scheme in the wake of floods and erratic monsoon witnessed in 2017.
Amidst unemployment woes among youths resulting in agitations such as Patidar, the budget saw youth employment saw an outlay of Rs 7.85 billion, while labour and employment was allotted Rs 17.32 billion. Education too saw one of the highest allocations of Rs 275 billion focusing on mid-day meals, girl child education and distribution of electronic tablets. Health and family welfare attracted an outlay of Rs 97.50 billion, while women and child welfare saw an allocation of Rs 30.70 billion.
Facing a severe water crisis leading to curbing of supply for industrial, agricultural and domestic purposes, Narmada, water resources, water supply and Kalpasar division was allocated Rs 148.95 billion in the budget. The government has looked to ensure "adequate supply" of water for irrigation, industrial and domestic use through the outlay. Among these, Rs 40.18 billion was allocated for development of minor canals for last mile irrigation. Under Sardar Sarovar Scheme, Rs 8.99 billion was allocated for the Statue of Unity.
Of the Rs 44.10 billion worth of allocation for industries and mines, Rs 8.43 billion was made for providing assistance for capital investment made by micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), apart from Rs 4.5 billion for cottage industries. The government also made a provision of Rs 2.80 billion for Dholera Special Investment Region (SIR).
On the other hand, Patel allocated Rs 85 billion for energy and petrochemicals, and Rs 2.81 billion for tourism. The government will be taking up projects worth Rs 27.57 billion to strengthen the power transmission network in the state, laying power cables of 2557 circuit kilometres.
The metro rail project in Ahmedabad, first phase of which is under construction, saw a provision of Rs 5.92 billion being made, while the Smart City Mission for six cities in Gujarat saw a provision of Rs 5.97 billion. The upcoming Diamond Dream City in Surat too attracted an outlay of Rs 300 million.
To accelerate road network across the state, Patel announced a provision of Rs 92.52 billion for roads and buildings. A provision of Rs 54.20 billion was made for home department with an aim to boost traffic and security arrangements across the cities.
Meanwhile, under ports and transport development, Patel provided Rs 14.31 billion as outlay including Rs 200 billion for modernisation of the Alang Ship Recycling Yard.