Finance Minister Haseeb A Drabu along with MoS Finance Ajay Nanda moving towards Assembly to present budget.
STATE TIMES NEWS
JAMMU: Unveiling his 4th Budget of Rs 80,313 crore in the state assembly, Finance Minister Haseeb A Drabu on Thursday rolled out major welfare initiatives and said the reform measures adopted by the government have started paying off.
Drabu announced a slew of sops for industrialists, traders, employees, poor, farmers, cooperative banks, ailing units and Panchyati Raj institutions.
“It will be a potential game-changer budget full of welfare initiatives,” he told reporters here.
“We were the first state to move from the archaic plan-non-plan expenditure to capital and revenue expenditure which was followed by other states. All the systematic changes been made so far have started paying off,” he said.
A new, robust, sustainable and people-friendly financial architecture is taking shape in the state, the minister said.
In a major welfare initiative, the government in its budget has decided to do away with toll on vegetables, medicines, sugar, salt, tea, soaps, detergents, sanitary items, water coconut, wheat seeds, tree spray oil, newsprint and jaggery.
The government also proposes abolition of basic toll on all non-commercial, private light motor vehicles.
The government has decided to abolish toll on export of all types of fruits produced within the state, he said.
It has decided to extend relief to the general commuters and transporters and decided to abolish Lower Munda and Heerpur Toll Posts, he said.
The government will consider providing alternate incentive in lieu of CST to industrial units in the state, he added.
The state government shall also provide freight subsidy to the industrial units located in the state and transporting their manufactured goods beyond 1,000 km outside J-K, Drabu said.
The state government shall make available refund of SGST (State Goods and Service Tax) to all industrial units, which were hitherto eligible for VAT exemption, he added.
The hotels and resorts will be treated at par with the industries as far as payment of power tariff is concerned.
From April 1, 2018, hotels and resorts will now have to pay the same power tariff as is applicable to industries, Drabu said.
The finance minister also announced rolling out a “CM’s Business Interest Relief Scheme”.
For all the RBI-approved restructured accounts, the government will contribute one-third of the total interest payment of all these borrowers.
He announced the grant of one-time waiver of Rs 147.23 lakh on soft loans provided under erstwhile Prime Minister’s Package in respect of 19 Houseboat owners, who had taken such loans from banks other than J&K Bank and SBI.
“The government will grant waiver of penalty and interest on arrears of tax in respect of all the dealers registered under the provisions of J&K Value Added Tax, 2005 and J&K General Sales Tax Act, 1962,” he added.
He said the government will waive off interest and penalty on all the power arrears owed to the government by the industrialists and hoteliers and tourist resort owners.
“Under Amnesty Scheme for transport sector, I am waiving off interest and penalty on past arrears of token and passenger tax from July 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017,” he added.
The government will support the creation of a common facility centre for cricket bat industry at Sethar, Anantnag by making an attractive public-private partnership offer.
The minister said that it will facilitate setting up of walnut processing units in the private sector through an enabling interest subvention scheme.
The J-K government proposed a small initiative of setting up of a community based marketing network to encourage saffron growers to go back to the traditional system of cultivation, for which Drabu earmarked Rs 5 crore, he added.
The government proposes to set up a sum of Rs 25 crore to finance orchard re-plantation and high density plantation initiative, he said.
For sick units of the government, it will make a provision of Rs 5 crore for meeting cost of VRS-GHS in PSUs.
Drabu said that with the complete revamp of the corporate governance structure of the Power Development Corporation, along with a refurbished balance sheet, a large equity base and a slew of projects are in pipeline.
J-K State Finance Corporation has issued a share buyback offer and got a unexpectedly good response, he said.
The minister said Rs 5 crore each will be infused in the Handicraft Development and Handloom Development Corporations for raw material and inventory upgradation.
The government will set up of a J&K Renewal Energy Corporation which will catalyze the development of renewable energy resources.
Besides this, he also announced capital infusion of Rs 255 crore in Anantnag Central Cooperative Bank, Baramulla Central Cooperative Bank and Jammu Central Cooperative Bank, he said.
For businesses, industries and traders, the government will consider providing alternate incentive in lieu of CST to the industrial units in the State, he added.
Meanwhile Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti welcomed the annual budget, terming it development-focused and people-oriented.
Based on the feedback from her public outreach programme, Rs 200 crore was earmarked for drinking water supply in the state, and Rs 50 crore for completion of around 1000 ongoing schemes, Mufti said here.
This, the chief minister said, depicted the developmental intervention the government has thought of for changing the socio economic profile of the State.
Mufti said the budget, by focusing on panchayats, displayed the commitment of her government to strengthen the local self governments at political, administrative and financial levels.
Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Nirmal Singh hailed the budget proposals by terming them as growth oriented and people friendly, which has catered to every section of the society.
In a message, the Deputy Chief Minister said that the welfare budget, which was presented in the State Legislature today has the potential of catapulting the growth indices of the State by ensuring holistic and sustained economic growth. He said that it will ensure that the economy of the State gets the requisite boost and it comes up as one of the most vibrant economies of the country.
Every section of the society like industrialists, horticulturists, employees and journalists have been given due attention by taking care of their needs and aspirations in the budget, he added.
He said that these types of welfare budgets are normally presented by the governments during the electioneering year but the government has presented it well before that with the motive of implementing it in toto so that the people of the State get benefited from it.
Lauding the budget, the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) called it a big sigh of relief for the marginalised and unrepresented class of the state.
PDP’s Srinagar district president and member of Legislative Council Mohammad Khurshid Alam said the budget was a much needed one as it had all the contents to benefit the common masses across the state.
“From industrialists to houseboat owners, and from daily wagers to state government employees, the budget has adopted the most humane approach in addressing the woes of the common man living in the state,” Alam said.
The PDP MLC said covering the transgender community of the state under the BPL category was a landmark decision.
“The implementation of the 7th Pay Commission will be a major achievement of the government as unlike the previous governments, this regime didn’t compel its employees to hit the streets for their demands,” he added.
Terming it a budget with a ‘conscience and a heart’ to reach out to every section of the society, Minister for Public Works Naeem Akhtar lauded Finance Minister Drabu for taking into consideration the interests and aspirations of common masses, employees, businessmen, traders, youth, poor and marginalised.
It had been prepared keeping in mind both the people’s interests, and the short and long-term economic objectives of the state, Akhtar added.
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