THIRUVANANTHPAURAM: If any more proof was required for the sudden development freeze in the state, just check out the plan fund utilisation figures. Utilisation that crossed 45 percent before the end of November has not even touched 50 percent at the start of January, 2018. Development, in short, has become the biggest casualty of the state’s fiscal crisis.
The state’s plan fund utilisation was setting records till the finance department was forced to apply sudden brakes in November. Revenues from GST fell, and worse, assured income from the sales tax on petrol demonstrated a huge decline, it fell by over 30 percent hinting at a recessionary trend. Development had to be frozen if salaries and pension had to be paid on time.
Growth was on an overdrive that the utilisation achieved by the end of November was 45.25 percent, a level not achieved even after January in the last five fiscals. In fact, the finance department sources said that utilisation at the mid-point of the fiscal was the strongest in over a decade.
In what can be called an irony of development, a high plan spending has depleted the state’s resources that had been badly hit by the implementation of the GST regime. Utilisation in the middle of the third quarter has crossed 42 percent, which is considerably higher than the earlier peak of high of 28 percent achieved in the 2012-13 fiscal. “At least temporarily, the state’s coffers are empty. A high level of fund utilisation has thus become unsustainable, if the state’s welfare promises are to be kept,” a top Finance Department official said. “Given the fiscal constraint, it does not seem likely that plan utilisation will pick up any soon,” he added.
This time, the work on implementing the plan schemes began right before the Budget was passed in the Assembly. The full Budget was passed only by May 18 but by then sanction was already issued for projects worth `1500 crore-plus; most of which were included in the 'green book', a document that lists projects that are to be taken up on an urgent basis.
Further, this fiscal the Panchayat Plan Formulation Guidelines, traditionally brought out during June, was released on April 2. The local bodies, as a result, had the time to devise projects and get it approved by the District Planning Committee, a laborious time-consuming process. This time, virtually 100 percent of the local body plan was finalised before June 15.