Budget planning big challenge for Kashmir finance minister

January 15th, 2009 - 7:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Jammu, Jan 15 (IANS) Budget planning for debt-ridden Jammu and Kashmir is going to be a “Himalayan task” for the National Conference-Congress coalition government, according to state Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather.Rather, a known authority on finance and law in Jammu and Kashmir, said the budgetary exercise in the backdrop of “financial mismanagement of the past” was a big challenge.

“If possible, I will prefer full fledged budget to Vote on Account. But we are left with very little time and it is a Himalayan task,” Rather, who has been the finance minister thrice earlier, told IANS.

The state budget in Jammu and Kashmir is normally tabled in the assembly by February end, though former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had advanced it to January.

The National Conference veteran Rather said the six successive zero deficit budgets by the previous Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-Congress coalition government were “an illusion”.

When the National Conference was voted out in October 2002, Rather said, the state had borrowed Rs.800 crore (Rs.8 billion) from J&K Bank Ltd.

The debt, Rather said, “has now risen to about Rs.2,000 crore (Rs.20 billion)”.

“If those were in fact zero deficit budgets then why did the overdraft and loan increase,” Rather questioned.

He said the budgetary exercise in that situation was “not an easy task” and needed discussions at various levels, with different departments and also traders’ bodies.

“We are answerable for so many things to the Planning and Finance commissions of India. It is not an easy task to convince them and on top of everything the credibility is at stake.

“This year’s expenditures too have been drastically low. So when we go to Planning Commission how will we explain this shortcoming,” Rather said.

He said he was studying how low the state was in expenditures. “It would be difficult for me to explain all this to Planning Commission in my meeting with them Jan 28.”

He said that his priority was to deal with the situation with a “positive approach”. “I have to deliver so as to rebuild the confidence of people and prove credibility of our government.”

“With (Omar Abdullah as) chief minister with whom there are high expectations associated and for whom deliverance is highest on agenda, it is going to be a tough job.”

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