Trinamool Manifesto: Mamata Banerjee Promises Doles, But Does Not Say Where The Money Is Going To Come From
Given the precarious state of Bengal’s finances, it will be nearly impossible for Banerjee to implement her poll promises; that is, if she manages to overcome the anti-incumbency she faces.
The Trinamool’s poll manifesto released by party chief Mamata Banerjee holds no surprises. As expected, it is overloaded with promises of freebies and doles.
The primary promises made by Banerjee are:
Dole of Rs 10,000 per acre a year to every farmer
Education loans at a ridiculously low rate of interest (4 per cent)
Monthly dole of Rs 1,000 to every woman head of SC, ST and OBC families and Rs 500 to woman head of general category families; 1.6 crore families to be benefited
Delivering rations to the doorsteps of 1.5 crore families
25 lakh low-cost houses to be built and given for free to poor families, every such house to have pipe water connection
Existing scheme of Rs 10,000 cash dole to students to buy smartphones and tabs for online studies to continue
Generate employment opportunities for 5 lakh people every year
Provide 75 crore subsidised meals (at Rs 5 a meal) through 2,500 ‘Maa’ canteens across 50 cities and towns in Bengal
Facilitating the setting up of 10 lakh MSME units every year
Two thousand big industrial units to be set up in next five years
Attracting investments worth Rs 5 lakh crore over next five years
Double spending on health to 1.5 per cent of state gross domestic product (SGDP) and setting up of super-speciality hospitals in headquarters of all 23 districts
Piped drinking water for every household, and all rural households to be connected by all-weather roads
These poll promises need a huge lot of funds to implement.
Bengal, today, is under a debt burden of nearly Rs 5 lakh crore that is only growing.
When Banerjee came to power in 2011, she inherited a debt of Rs 2 lakh crore. She demanded that the debt be restructured and Bengal be granted a moratorium of a few years on repayment.
When the then Manmohan Singh government refused, she crossed swords with it. She also voiced the same demand when the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) came to power in 2014, but was turned down once again.
Bengal’s budget for 2020-2021 projects the state’s expenditure at Rs 255,677 crore and its receipts (excluding borrowings) at Rs 179,905 crore. The fiscal deficit is, according to very conservative projections of the state government, pegged at Rs 31,483 crore.
A whopping Rs 77,047 crore, or nearly 43 per cent of Bengal’s revenue receipts, will go towards debt servicing (interest payments + repayment of principal) this fiscal. This means that Bengal will have to spend 43 per cent of what it earns in repaying past loans.
The state has been taking loans to service its debt and also to meet its fiscal deficit which has been ballooning every year due to fiscal indiscipline and Banerjee’s propensity to give doles to countless entities.
The large doles she has been habitually handing out — to local clubs, Durga puja committees, Muslim clerics and many others — and the plethora of welfare schemes initiated by her has left the state’s coffers dry.
At the same time, due to her failure to attract big investments, the state’s revenue receipts have not increased substantially.
Most of the increase (in revenue) that Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra touts as a sign of Bengal’s ‘growing economy’ is actually from the rise in taxes on liquor.
Alcohol is a major revenue earner for Bengal, and that in itself speaks volumes about the state of Bengal’s economy.
Given the precarious state of Bengal’s finances, it will be nearly impossible for Banerjee to implement her poll promises. That is, if she manages to overcome rising anti-incumbency and people’s anger with Trinamool’s corruption, appeasement (of Muslims) and high-handedness.
The only way she will be able to fulfil her promises is by taking more loans. But she will not receive permission from the Union government to do so. That leaves her with the only option of diverting funds from other sectors and to run a higher deficit than what has been projected.
Three major points on the Trinamool’s manifesto — setting up 10 lakh MSME units every year, 2,000 big industrial units in the next five years and attracting investments worth over Rs 5 lakh crore over the next five years — appear difficult to achieve.
Bengal’s investment-unfriendly climate — thanks to poor law and order situation, poor infrastructure and work culture and an unresponsive state administration — precludes the possibility of investments coming into the state.
Significantly, the Trinamool chief did not list out her government’s achievements over the last five years. That was in stark contrast to the party’s 2016 poll manifesto which contained claims of her government’s “achievements”.
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