Cash transfers to farmers, SHG women in Andhra's vote-on-account budget

Chandrababu Naidu
With assembly elections around the corner, the Andhra Pradesh government on Tuesday presented a vote-on-account budget with an estimated expenditure of Rs 2.26 trillion for the financial year 2019-20, up 18.38 per cent over the revised estimates of the current year.

Despite the announcement of new schemes and increased allocations to existing social sector programmes, the government was able to project a revenue surplus -- of Rs 2,099.47 crore in this budget -- for the first time since the bifurcation of the state.  The budget estimates include Rs 1.80 trillion in revenue expenditure and Rs 29,596 crore in capital expenditure. 

Of the total revenue receipts, the state's own tax revenue is pegged at Rs 75,438 crore. In a Rs 60,782-crore bill, 'salaries and pensions' is the major head of account under revenue expenditure.

Among the other highlights, the government announced a new scheme for farmers called 'Annadata Sukheebhava (Best wishes to the provider of food to the world)', which is similar to the direct cash transfer scheme launched by the Centre. The scheme has been allocated a sum of Rs 5,000 crore in the budget.

The state government also announced cash transfer of Rs 10,000 to each of the nine million self-help group (SHG) women members in three instalments between February-April, with a budgetary provision of Rs 6,400 crore.

Presenting the budget to the legislative assembly in Amaravati, finance minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu said the state has made a formidable progress that no one expected five years ago on multiple fronts under the leadership of chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu despite all odds post bifurcation.

"Five years ago, people doubted if this government would even be able to pay salaries to its employees and meet general expenditure. We are now in the midst of building a world-class capital city. We attracted investments in a big way by making great strides in ease of doing business," the minister stated while listing out the state government's achievements in the past four and a half years.

The state achieved an average growth rate of 10.66 per cent in the last four years and is well ahead of all-India growth in all the three sectors of the economy, according to the minister.

Elections to the state assembly were held last time in undivided Andhra Pradesh in April-May 2014, along with the Lok Sabha elections, while the legislative assemblies of respective states of Telangana and residual state of AP were created with the elected representatives of the respective regions after the bifurcation in June, 2014. Telugu Desam Party (TDP) headed by Chandrababu Naidu, which had formed the first government in the residual state, is seeking re-election with more people-friendly welfare schemes.

The government had more than doubled allocation to social security pensions, to Rs 12,819 crore, in line with the recent announcement of chief minister Naidu that all the social security pensions will be increased to Rs 2,000 per month from the present Rs 1,000 level. The government has also raised the unemployment allowance to jobless youth to Rs 2000 from Rs 1,000.

Among the new schemes, the government announced a Rs 1,000 crore scheme for MSMEs, under which Rs 400 crore is earmarked for incentives to new units, Rs 100 crore towards the revival of stressed units and the remaining Rs 500 crore for establishment of new MSME industrial parks. 

Though the state had treaded a path of high revenue deficit in the initial three years with revenue deficit as high as Rs 16,151 crore in 2017-18, the government was able to bring down this revenue gap to Rs 2,494 crore in 2018-19, according to the budget numbers. The revenue and fiscal deficit, which stood at  2.01 per cent and 4.03 per cent respectively in 2017-18, declined to 0.27 per cent and 3.14 per cent in the current year. The finance minister said the projected fiscal deficit of Rs 32,390 crore would be 3.03 percent of the GSDP in year 2019-20.

The state government debt rose to Rs 2.24 trillion in the last four years from the level of Rs 1.49 trillion in the year 2014-15.

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