Growing debt makes it uphill task for AP
Growing debt makes it uphill task for AP

Amaravati: The tenth budget of Finance Minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu for 2018-19, while being ambitious with an expenditure of Rs 1.91 lakh crore which is 21.6 per cent more than last year, also reflected the anguish that is welling up in the government over the way it thinks the Centre had betrayed the state.

In the beginning of his budget speech, Ramakrishnudu referred to how the state had remained at the receiving end of the whims and fancies of the Centre and how it had to fend for its itself in the absence of any initiative in bridging the revenue deficit which the state had inherited. Interestingly, the accumulated debt of the state at the end of 2017-18 will be a whopping Rs 2.25 lakh crore, more than the size of the budget.

The Finance Minister, however, had not lost all hope in the Centre despite the TDP pulling out of the NDA government. He pointed out that he had proposed revenue surplus budget hoping at least this year, the Centre would release all the dues as per the AP State Reorganisation Act, 2014 but it is anybody's guess how the road ahead would be, given the priorities of the Centre. His estimate of revenue surplus would be Rs 5,235 crore, which is 0.6 per cent of GSDP. 
The fiscal deficit is projected at Rs 24,205 crore which is 2.78 per cent of GSDP.

Ramakrishnudu, quoting Abdul Kalam, said the Universe was conspiring to help AP if it can only dream and work, indicating that the state can chart its own course. He pointed out that four years were too short a time for building the state which was stripped of capital city and a buoyant service sector. Yet the state, without sitting doing nothing, had worked hard ensuring an average of 10.96 per cent growth in the last three years as against a national average of 7.31 per cent.

The budget, despite crying foul over the Centre not willing to extend hand-holding to the state, sought to have a please-all character as this would be the last budget before elections which are likely by the end of this year. For instance, there was a whopping 152 per cent increase to Rs 3,679 crore for housing, 66.5 per cent increase to Rs 2,623 crore for water supply and sanitation, 62 per cent increase to Rs 1,635 crore for sports and youth welfare.

Though Ramakrishnudu was presenting the budget, the recall of the two ministers from Central cabinet has cast a very long shadow on the proceedings of the Assembly with members showing little interest in the proceedings. Even Ministers were seen discussing only the recall of ministers from the Central cabinet rather than the budget proposals.

Ramakrsihnudu, describing the budget as one which is people-oriented with a strong focus on welfare, tried to take on board SCs, STs, BCs and minorities as the state nudged towards the electoral challenge that lay ahead of the ruling party. As BCs are the backbone of the TDP and in the face of uncertainty among them that Naidu was showing more interest in Kapus and was trying to include them among BCs, the Finance Minister increased allocation to Rs 12,200 crore which is 14 per cent increase over last year.

Apparently to dispel any misgivings among the Kapus that the government was hesitating to take care of their interests in the wake of fears of the BCs, the Finance Minister set aside Rs 1,000 crore for the Kapu corporation which is included under welfare account. As Kapus could make or mar electoral fortunes of any party, Naidu has been nursing this constituency with utmost care as their number is estimated at 25 per cent of total population of the state.

The Finance Minister allocated Rs 1,102 crore for minorities which is 31 per cent increase than last year as Naidu is eyeing their support in the next election as TDP has stepped out of the NDA government for now and might even bid goodbye to BJP for good.

The hallmark of the budget proposals was to focus the relentless effort of Naidu in building he state despite the Centre trying to throw a spanner in the works and that it was a government that was working all the time. Said Ramakrishnudu: "I am confident that the budget will help in building a happy state while at the same time remaining conscious of the arduous journey ahead."

By: R Prithvi Raj