The cash-strapped Punjab government has deferred the proposal of revision of salary and allowance of its legislative members. In a significant development on the floor of the House, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Tikshan Sud, withdrew The Punjab Legislative Assembly (salaries and allowances of members) Amendment Bill 2009 and the Punjab State Legislative members ( Pension and Medical Facilities Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2009. The state intends to save Rs 5.47 crore annually, on account of withdrawal of the Bill.
On being asked about the reason for the move, Sud said, “Since the hike for ministers, and chief parliamentary secretaries and the leader of Opposition is also under consideration, we have decided to bring the comprehensive Bill in the next session.”
It is worth mentioning that earlier the Punjab Cabinet approved proposals of the General Purposes Committee of the Assembly for a salary hike and higher allowances for the MLAs. The Bill for amending the relevant Act was scheduled to be presented on Friday in the ongoing Assembly session which concluded on the day. The Bill also mentions about hike in constituency allowance, sumptuary allowance, daily allowance, secretarial allowance and telephone allowance. Insiders also revealed that the finance department was not in favour of hike due to poor financial condition of the state government. The proposed hike, if implemented would put an extra burden of Rs 1.87 crore on the state exchequer. Sud also withdrew the Punjab State Legislature Members (Pension and Medical Facilities Regulation) Amendment Bill 2009, which, if passed, would have put an extra burden of Rs 3.60 crore on the state exchequer.
However, officials in the Punjab government said it was a political decision. Chief Secretary S C Aggarwal said, “The decision to withdrew the Bill is totally a political one and not taken at the official level. The state has been passing through a dismal fiscal situation for the last many years as revenue expenditure continues to outstrip revenue receipt, resulting in large revenue and fiscal deficits and cash flow problems. As in July 2009, Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal presented a revenue deficit of Rs 4,233.92 crore (budget estimate) for 2009-10 as against revised estimates of Rs 3,811.64 crore for the year 2008-09.
During his budget speech, he added, “The state has reached a stage of debt unsustainability. I am worried about the fiscal health of the state. The mounting debt burden has resulted in increasing liability of servicing debt. The total outstanding debt for 2009-10 (budget estimate) is expected to be Rs 63, 217 crore.”