The Punjab Government on Monday took the initial steps towards forming the economic revival strategy in the state after COVID-19 lockdown ends. The Montek Singh Ahluwalia led Group of Experts set up five sub-groups while former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh accepted CM Amarinder Singh’s request to provide overall guidance in restoring the state’s growth and economy.
During a video conference with the Group of Experts, the Chief Minister disclosed that he had written to Dr Manmohan Singh to guide the state government along with the Experts, and he had kindly accepted.
I had written to Dr Manmohan Singh Ji to guide us along with the group of experts headed by Montek Singh Ahluwalia & I am grateful to him for accepting. We have been working hard to steer Punjab to the path of economic growth & post #Covid19 we will again focus on same. pic.twitter.com/EKCZkqNKHK— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) April 27, 2020
The five sub-groups – Finance, Agriculture, Health, Industry, and Social Aid – have been set up to streamline the Group’s working and the chairpersons of each of these Groups would mobilise workers to take the agenda forward.
Captain Amarinder told the Group that the state’s financial situation was grim, with monthly revenue losses to the tune of Rs 3360 crores. This includes losses on account of GST (Rs 1322 cr), State Excise on Liquor (Rs 521 cr), Motor Vehicle Tax (Rs 198 crore), VAT on Petrol & Diesel (Rs 465 cr), Electricity Duty (Rs 243 cr), Stamp Duty (Rs 219 cr) and Non-tax Revenue (Rs 392 cr).
The state’s cash inflows had completely dried up, said the Chief Minister, adding that Power consumption had declined by 30 per cent with a daily loss of Rs. 30 crores in the collection of electricity tariff to the Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd. Punjab’s industry has been shut down, with less than 1% of then working. In addition, State’s GST arrears of Rs 4365.37 crore are yet to be paid by the Government of India, he lamented.
Group member and industrialist SP Oswal said the state and the industry were facing a hard time, necessitating hard decisions and sacrifices.
The Chief Minister said Agriculture was currently offering the only bright side to the situation, with the state having a bumper wheat crop, which will be followed by Cotton and Paddy. His government proposed to further reduce the Paddy cultivation to protect the depleting water resource, he said, but added that with the Centre’s stand on MSP still not clear, the situation was ambiguous.
The Centre, Captain Amarinder pointed out, had not even accepted his government’s request for bonus to incentivise the farmers to bring in their products in a staggered manner to the Mandis, which was essential to check the spread of COVID-19, which has currently affected 8 districts in the state and had shown a mortality rate higher than the national average.
However, the state’s percentage of the national total had declined from 2.2% on April 1 to 1.2% on April 25, he noted, adding that the doubling rate of cases (as an average of last one week) stood at around 18 days against the national average of 9 days.
The Chief Minister hoped the Centre would soon extend the much-needed relief package to the state to help it tide over the current unprecedented crisis, with huge socio-economic implications.
(Image: Capt Amarinder/Twitter)