Gangtok, 29 Jul:
Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang [Golay] presented the Annual Budget 2019-20 on the first day of the Budget Session 2019 here at Sikkim Legislative Assembly on Monday.
In his budget speech, the CM stated that the focus of the government in the current budget will be to review and take stock of the current situation of State finances in view of large committed liabilities of the State and address the immediate and urgent requirements only.
He added that the government will review the continuance of some of the major schemes that have been sanctioned earlier.
He informed that after forming the government on 27 May the State government decided to prepare a White Paper outlining the present level of burden of loans and liabilities, on account of the commitments and pending bills that the government has inherited, vis-a-vis the revenue potential of the State.
On the same, he informed that the total accumulated liabilities under various schemes amounts to Rs 5605 crores. The State’s budgetary Debt consists of all liabilities that require payment of interest and or principal by the State government and it includes internal debt, loans and advances from the Centre and all public account liabilities, such as provident funds, reserve funds and deposits, he said.
In addition to budgetary debt, the State has also increasingly reported to off budget borrowings through guarantees, he added.
The CM mentioned that in 2019-20 the State government was expected to spend Rs 1079.72 crores on servicing its debt including payment of interest for loan contracted on behalf of PSUs, which was 12.46% of the overall estimated expenditure. This expenditure includes Rs 414.10 crore towards repayment of loans and Rs 665.62 crore towards interest payments, he informed.
The public debt and other liabilities during the beginning of the fiscal year 1994-95 was Rs 214.93 crore and thereafter there has been sharp spike over the years and the closing balance as on 31 March 2019 was Rs 6261.15 crore without accounting the borrowings contracted through the PSUs, said the CM. He mentioned that the present government has inherited a whopping liability.
ADDRESSING POVERTY & INEQUALITY
Speaking on development inequality, the CM mentioned that the latest Economic Survey of India published by Ministry of Finance shows that Sikkim has Rs 2.98 lakh as per capita income in 2017-18 and this is the second highest in the country.
However, this high per capita income becomes meaningful only if the income was equitably distributed among all sections of the people in the State, he said.
Stating that there are many whose per capita income is 10 to 20 times more than Rs 2.98 lakh, he added that there is a big gap between the rich and the poor in today’s Sikkim.
“We shall have to attack, address and resolve this poverty-disparity-inequality issue with a range of instruments,” said the CM.
He proposed a thorough study on development inequality and imbalance by an eminent institution in India. Rich individuals in the State and others may inspire and incentivize he poorer sections mainly the younger generation through making philanthropic contributions for various micro and macro level activities and their names will be highlighted for their affirmative action, he stated.
“We propose a formula of 5:1 i.e. if a philanthropist contributes Rs 5,000, government of Sikkim will contribute Rs 1000 in this fund. The pool of funds will be managed, operated and evaluated by a team of State, Civil Society and Private Sector. I name this institution Sikkim Social Endowment Fund,” he said.
Speaking on more practical and accurate ways to identify poverty as done in Sri Lanka’s Jansaviya Programme, he stated that each Zilla Panchayat will be empowered and resources will be made available to start this exercise of scientifically identifying households below poverty line and thus effectively alleviate poverty.
CM announced the formation of Sikkim Development and Reforms Commission which will be headed by the CM and will have a noted Development Economist as the Vice Chairman and will have experts, Ministers, civil society, private sector, NGOs and community and representatives from opposition party. The commission will function under the aegis of the Office of the Chief Minister.
Speaking on the Commission, he stressed upon the need to rethink on the planning and development machinery in the State.
“We shall have to negotiate a new planned development process, a new paradigm of mobilizing and managing financial resources and also examine how international and multilateral institutions could be attracted to fund development projects and other programmes in Sikkim,” he said.
EDUCATION & YOUTH
CM made various announcements in the education sector from primary level to higher levels in the maiden budget of the government. He said that the youth of Sikkim are highly talented and for their talent to flourish and reach greater heights at the national and global level, the state needs to have institutions that are competitive, inclusive and globally oriented.
Speaking on suicide and substance abuse, he announced that the government will commission an inter-disciplinary team of experts to examine the reason behind both these perilous dimensions of the society and the ways to effectively end this.
He further announced financial support to NGOs to work and address these two crucial areas, technological interventions in both supply intelligence modules and also demand side detections and all forces and institutions dealing with psychotropic substance will be given a major technological upgradation. He also announced to appoint two psychiatrists and two psychologists each in all four district hospitals as both preventive and curative measures.
CM announced to set up Foreign Workers Recruitment Institute in cooperation with various Foreign Embassies in India and other international job recruitment agencies to provide ample employment scope for the youth of Sikkim in and outside the country. He further announced to provide training to youths in various professional areas.
While speaking on high demand of nurses and other health workers in other big countries, he talked of harnessing these markets by providing professionally well trained female and male nurses from Sikkim. He also mentioned a serious endeavour to send and recruit 50 nurses in Japan by 2025, 50 nurses in Europe and USA by 2025 and 50 nurses in Canada and other countries by 2025.
On the same, the CM announced to set up a modern School of Nurses with all world class facilities and technologies with the premises of the existing hospital and this school will also have house language training centres such as English, French, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.
He also announced to set up Climate Change Centre of Excellence in Sikkim with a view to make Sikkim as the core geography on climate change research, policy and strategies in the Himalayas. He also mentioned that the State government will soon start revamping the health services in the State with a view to providing at least basic services at the grassroot level.
He informed that besides the primary health centres and district hospitals, the new STNM Hospital will be given adequate resources to meet the requirements of the people.
CM mentioned that the State government will now set up a special cell in the Department of Social Welfare to sensitize and make people aware on large numbers of welfare, development, professional and financials schemes of the Central government and the State government for SC and ST communities and OBCs through various mediums.
DEVELOPMENT OF MEDIA
Speaking on Media Team Development Review Fund, he mentioned that the government intends to make media more vibrant, innovate and competitive.
“This could be done by providing the media persons to see for themselves what is happening in and around the country. These exposure trips will re-skill our media persons, make them evaluate more objectively and nurture spirit of competitive professional in them,” he said.
On the same, he added that the government will provide the scheme which will allow the journalists to visit any development project in the country to evaluate the same, write series of reports from the field and submit the full report of the State government.
“The amount of Fellowship proposed is Rs 1 lakh per Fellowship every year and the number of Fellowship offered is 10 per year. The eligibility criteria for the Fellowship will be for all Accredited Journalists and media persons,” he said.
CM also made announcements in literature, art, music and film productions. On the same, he also announced that efforts will be made to reactivate the Doordarshan Kendra in Gangtok which will have fully operational programme and telecasting facilities.