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Punjab will have to wait for regular budget

CHANDIGARH: Punjab will have to wait for its regular budget beyond the fiscal year (March 31) as the maiden session of the 14th vidhan sabha (2012-2017) beginning on March 19 will see the new government seeking a vote-on-account.

Apart from very little time to work on the budget, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has not even allocated portfolios. The portfolio distribution is likely on Thursday.

“The decision on portfolio may be by tomorrow and on chief parliamentary secretaries, the decision will be made very soon,” chief minister Parkash Singh Badal said while emerging after the first cabinet meeting. All ministers except Janmeja Singh Sekhon, whose daughter is getting married on Wednesday, attended the Cabinet meeting.

Badal also informed that the Cabinet decided that all ministers will have to sit in the secretariat at least for three days between Tuesdays and Fridays.

Though sources in the Akali Dal said 38-year-old MBA and commerce graduate Parminder Singh Dhindsa has been sounded to take over as finance minister, yet the portfolio allocation is yet to be formally made. Badal may take a day or two to decide on portfolios as he will be attending the swearing-in ceremony of Akhilesh Yadav in Lucknow. Badal himself confirmed his scheduled presence in the oath taking ceremony of Akhilesh Yadav.

Sources in the government said, “The maiden session beginning from March 19 will see vote-on-account (continuing with provisions of the last year even beyond the fiscal year ending on March 31).” The vote-on-account is generally sought for three months giving the new finance minister time till June to come up with his budget provisions. The vote-on-account is a must as without this, any release of funds will stop from April 1 as the previous budget was only till March 31.

Officers related to the making of the budget told The Times of India, “We are waiting for the new government and the finance minister to set priorities so that provisions could be made accordingly.”

Generally budget makers also take at least a month to prepare for the most important fiscal exercise of the government. The first budget of the Badal-5 government will be important as it has to accommodate poll promises, including massive sops for employees and at the same time take steps that can spur investments – private or public. Investments are the only guarantee for pushing growth that will give the government money earned through taxes to deploy in crucial sectors like health, education and social welfare to bring a synergy in growth and human capital. This mismatch has been the bane of India’s economic development.

Sources in the government said after the swearing-in of the new members in the 14th assembly, the major business for the house will be governor’s address. The address is also important as it will be a document of intent of the new government for the next five years.

News Source: Times of India

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