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A vote-on-account budget for poll-bound Bengal

Special Correspondent

‘There are no new schemes or any tax proposal'

- Photo: Sushanta Patronobish

West Bengal Finance Minister Dr. Asim Dasgupta presenting a vote-on-account budget in the Assembly in Kolkata on Monday. Also seen is Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacherjee (right).

Kolkata: West Bengal Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta on Monday moved a vote-on-account budget amid protests of violation of the Model Code of Conduct for elections by the Opposition.

Dr. Dasgupta told journalists later that he was only fulfilling a Constitutional requirement by presenting the State's Annual Financial Statement (AFS).

“There are no new schemes or any tax proposal in the budget which contains primarily an analysis of the State Government's performance," said Dr. Dasgupta at a post-budget press meet.

He said the budget's main focus was on additional employment generation of eight lakh jobs based on a 8.3 per cent increase in production growth.

He said that with buoyancy in State's tax mobilisation (which increased by 33.4 per cent), the State has had to draw less of loans. "Our loan requirement is Rs.6000 crore less in this fiscal, with cumulative loans standing at Rs.1.86 lakh crore."

Dr. Dasgupta said the loan requirement has dropped following a breakthrough in VAT collections as well as better revenue mobilisation following computerisation of stamp duty registration and increase in excise collection. The State has also decided to put a cap on the amount of net small savings that it draws from the Centre.

Elaborating on employment generation, he said that this had come through self-help groups as well as large, medium and small industries and expansion of small service industries.

The budget stated that the number of SHGs in the State has increased significantly from 10.5 lakh in 2009-10 to 14.7 lakh in 2010-11.

On industry, Dr. Dasgupta said in his budget statement that despite several obstacles the level of industrial investment in West Bengal has increased from Rs.8,3493.4 crore in 2009 to Rs.15,052.2 crore in 2010 with food processing, iron and steel, chemicals and petrochemicals and engineering attracting investment.

He also mentioned the Land Bank scheme being implemented by the State's Commerce and Industry Department under which land is purchased for industry in relatively less-fertile areas after discussions with farmers and on payment of adequate compensation. Since 2008, under this scheme, 8100 acres has already been made available.

“This has added a new dimension to the State's industrial development."

The budget also dwelt on education, especially madarasa education.

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