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Mrunal Manmay Dash

Bhubaneswar: The Coronavirus pandemic has derailed Odisha’s budget big time. With the State witnessing 23% deficit in revenue generation in last three months, the government has made it clear that rollout of any new projects this year is quite unlikely. This apart, the departments have also been directed to take a cautious approach in spending to ride out the pandemic.

Padmanabh Behera, Odisha Planning & Convergence minister said that it has decided no new projects will be undertaken for the time being. However, the on-going projects will not be shelved but allowed to continue as per the schedule.

Given the financial turmoil the state is in, the government has directed all the concerned departments to spend a maximum of 60% of the allocated money. The decision for further expenditure will be taken in November after a review of the budget, Behera said.

As per the State Finance department data, Odisha has already spent Rs 1,900 crore in the fightback against COVID-19.

Speaking about the current financial condition and state government’s proposed economic measures, economic analyst Rajeev Sahu said, “The government has to take a decreased devolution of funds to the state into account while preparing the revised budget.”

Sources said that the state exchequer has been hit hard by the Coronavirus pandemic as a 70% decrease in revenue generation has been recorded in the months between April and May this year.

Odisha is yet to receive its GST share of Rs 3,500 crore from the Centre. With a loan of Rs 5,000 crore taken for COVID-19 management, the state’s total debt has crossed Rs 95,000 crores.

The opposition Congress on Sunday accused the Odisha government of creating an atmosphere of economic terrorism during the coronavirus pandemic.

“At a time when the people of the State are reeling under Covid-19 crisis, the State government is creating another fear that is economic terrorism. There are reports that people will not get employment and they will be sacked, budget and spending will be slashed. I would like to seek a clarification from the government as to why such fear is being created,” Congress leader Panchanan Kanungo said.

He alleged that under the guise of economic crisis in times of Covid-19 the government is planning to introduce a new tax regime. The former State finance minister further criticised that the State government is planning to hand over its mineral resources to others at a time when the loan burden of the State is increasing.

Kanungo also highlighted 10-point failure of the government in maintaining the economy
“The government has completely failed to eradicate the increasing unemployment problem in the State. Instead of raising its demands, it always showed a submissive attitude to the Centre. I would like to caution everyone that it was pre-planned to bring in new tax regime,” Kanungo went on to state.

Reacting to the allegations, BJD said nothing sort of that situation has arisen in the State. Senior leader of the ruling-BJD, Debi Mishra alleged that Congress has brought such allegations to gain political mileage.

“Naveen Patnaik-led government is taking various measures for economic revival giving utmost priority to life of the people. I think Kanungo is aware of it, but their party has brought such allegations for purely political reasons.”

(Edited By Suryakant Jena)

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