Punjab Finance Minister Harpal Singh Cheema on Monday presented the AAP government's first budget for FY23 in the state assembly and announced that the focus in the first year will be to restore deteriorating fiscal health, deliver on the promises of good governance and concentrate on health, agriculture and education.
The AAP government is fulfilling its first guarantee (promise) made to the people of Punjab by providing 300 units of domestic power supply per month free to all citizens from July 1, Cheema said.
Presenting the Bhagwant Mann government's maiden budget after AAP came to power in March this year, Cheema said the government has proposed to start the Punjab Young Entrepreneur programme to encourage class 11 students to propose their business ideas.
The state government will provide seed money of Rs 2,000 per student under this programme, the finance minister said as he presented the paperless budget. Cheema also announced that the government will set up 16 new medical colleges over five years.
The government will also establish 117 "Mohalla Clinics", for which Rs 77 crore has been earmarked.
The focus in the first year will be to restore deteriorating fiscal health, deliver on the promises of good governance by ensuring effective use of public funds and concentrate on health and education, the minister said.
"I propose a budget expenditure of Rs 1,55,860 crore for 2022-23, which reflects 14.20 per cent growth as compared to 2021-22," he said. The government has decided to approve fresh recruitment of 26,454 people and regularisation of 36,000 contractual employees, he said.
The AAP government pledges to stand by farmers and shall continue providing free power to the agriculture sector, he added.
Referred to the white paper on state finances, which was presented in the state assembly on Saturday, he said the document makes it vividly clear that Punjab has suffered decades of fiscal imprudence.
The current effective outstanding debt of Punjab stands at Rs 2.63 lakh crore, the minister informed.
He said that the state government will issue this year the Gender Responsive Budgeting Guidelines, setting out the strategy to promote the goal of gender equality and mainstreaming for bringing in social transformation and eliminating inequality.
The government has identified 100 existing schools that are proposed to be upgraded as "schools of eminence". Rs 200 crore has been earmarked for this purpose.
Modern digital classrooms will be established in 500 government schools. On the stubble burning issue, Cheema said various possibilities and solutions will be explored and for this Rs 200 crore has been earmarked in the budget.
(with inputs from PTI)
At the outset of his speech, Cheema said several measures are being undertaken to bring fiscal prudence and efficiency in the management of finances.
He also said that the AAP government will set up a model of good governance. "Our government has zero-tolerance towards corruption... Our party's birth started from the anti-corruption movement," he said, adding the government is acting against those who indulge in corrupt practices.
The finance minister said that the Janta budget (people's budget), which has been prepared after receiving 20,384 suggestions on the government portal and through e-mails, will focus on various areas, including health and education.
The GST compensation regime is set to end in June 2022, and based on the trends of previous years, the state government would be staring at a big hole left in its finances to the tune of Rs 14,000-15,000 crore in FY 2022-23, as per the budget document.
No new tax has been proposed in the budget. The Budget also lays provisions for introducing Fiscal Risk Management. Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia was among those present in the visitor's gallery of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha.