Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Budget disappoints, like our cricketers

Budget disappoints, like our cricketers
V. Ravichander
The Times of India

The citizen has simple expectations, be it cricket or the BCC budget. Our cricketers failed us on Monday. Our BCC budget too gives us cause for worry.

The news is that given around 57% achievement of Rs 729 crore in the revised estimates of 2004-05 (as against last year’s promise of Rs 1,265 crore), chances are that the promise of Rs 1,561 crore for 2005-06 will not be realised. Which is good news, incidentally. For, if the budget plan is to be realised, Bangaloreans will be burdened with an additional loan of Rs 545.53 crore.

The implication is an interest burden of around Rs 80 crore per year representing over 30% of annual property tax receipts. Such heavy borrowings without a citizen-consultative process by an agency with lowimplementation capability and revenue-realisation constraints does not augur well for Bangaloreans who will have to foot the bill.

The essential issue is that BCC has a non-plan expenditure of around Rs 400 crore for salaries, pensions, administration expenses, SWM, repairs and maintenance. Of the Rs 729-crore receipts last year, about Rs 130 crore is transferable revenue to other government departments. Hence, the true budget size is around Rs 600 crore.

Given that non-plan expenses will happen, shortages in revenue realisations affects the plan expenditure, which are developmental in nature. The budget could have focus on maximising revenue-generating potential. The cricketers too could have believed in themselves!

There is an alternate way for BCC to break out of these annual promises to meet citizens’ aspirations. It should focus on financial disclosure, widen the tax base, be transparent in operations, encourage citizen participation and deliver visible, equitable outcomes. This done, citizens will come forward to pay their due share, building a positive virtuous cycle of trust between citizens and the system. Are we ready to chart an alternate path collectively?

Ravichander is a former member of the BATF


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