Giving emphasis on infrastructure, education, health and tourism, West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra Friday proposed an 11.56 percent hike in plan expenditure for the financial year 2012-13 for the state, which currently has a debt burden of around Rs.2 lakh crore.
"The economy of the state was in a dire state as the new government took office. The debt burden of nearly Rs.2 lakh crore left the finances of the state gasping. The debt trap is still hanging like a Sword of Damocles," Mitra told the state Assembly while presenting his first full budget.
"Due to the debt left behind by the previous government, the interest and repayment obligations this year was to the tune of Rs.22,000 crore," he said.
The minister, however, proposed an 11.56 percent hike in plan expenditure to Rs.23,371.44 crore next fiscal, expecting that the state’s revenue collection would swell from an estimated Rs.24,934 crore during the current fiscal to Rs.31,222 crore in 2012-13.
Stating that one of the biggest factors that has impeded the growth and development in the state has been poor infrastructure, he said: "We will give special attention on this."
He said a distinct thrust has also been given to the development of backward regions of the state and social development in these backward areas.
Informing that minorities and women occupied the "centre-stage" in the proposed plan outlay of 2012-13, Mitra said the budget gave an "over-riding importance" to their educational, health and skill development needs.
Giving emphasis on agriculture, the government has decided to set up a "Krishi Utpadan Kendra" (Agricultural Production Centre) in every block.
“This shall involve setting up one Demonstration Centre of at least 500 hectares in each block involving the staple crop of the area. It is expected that this scheme shall result in coverage of around 1.9 lakh hectares and involve 2.8 lakh farmers at a total cost of around Rs.200 crore,” the finance minister said.
He also proposed to allocate Rs.150.46 crore to the Agriculture Marketing Department.
The government has also taken the decision to upgrade 500 Madhyamik Schools (Secondary school) to Higher Secondary Schools this year and 499 schools in the next financial year.
The minister proposed to increase the plan outlay of the Department of Tourism from Rs.44 crore in the current financial year to Rs.90 crore in the next financial year, an increase of more than 104 percent.
“We plan to boost tourism sector in order to make Bengal's tourist places known to the outside world and our own people. We propose to focus on backward districts like Purulia, Paschim Midnapore and Bankura in this respect,” he added.