THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Local bodies in the state have witnessed unprecedented fund utilisation during 2017-18. The final figures show that grama panchayats have achieved a stupendous utilisation of 94 per cent. Block panchayats, too, have recorded almost similar utilisation (92.18 per cent). Irony is, instead of encouraging planners this efficiency of utilisation has actually put the fear in them.
This record utilisation has been achieved even though the planning process began only by around July of the 2017-18 fiscal. But this fiscal, the process has begun right from the word go, from April 1 itself. Achieving very close to 100 per cent by the end of 2018-19 now looks like a distinct possibility. This, a top finance department official said, is "scary".
"The Planning Board has the habit of pegging the plan outlay very high with every passing fiscal, and if the state is going to achieve nearly cent per cent of the target it is going to put unspeakable stress on the state's finances," the official said. This was felt last fiscal too, and the government had to suspend plan spending during November and December.
The stress was but moderated a bit because of the relatively low utilisation in district panchayats, municipalities and corporations. District panchayats, quite in tune with the traditional trend and partly because they deal with relatively large projects, have shown a relatively modest utilisation of just 78 per cent. The utilisation in municipalities (88.94 per cent) and corporations (83.80 per cent) was also not as over-heated as in panchayats. Result: the total utilisation in local bodies was 87.54 per cent for 2017-18. "It also helped that the plan fund utilisation of departments, minus local body spending, was way below 90 per cent," the official said. This was, in the official's words, "thankfully only 86.97 per cent."
The finance department is still paying for the last fiscal's efficiency. It has to pay up local bodies and departments Rs 9181 crore for the bills they had submitted during the last days of the 2017-18 fiscal. "We have put the payment on hold as we have to pay salaries, and disburse social welfare pensions, together requiring more than Rs 5000 crore, during the first two weeks of April," the official said. The pending money for 2017-18 will be disbursed from April18....