Guwahati/Agartala, April 29 (IANS) Almost all state governments in the northeastern region have taken a series of austerity measures to cut expenditure and to increase revenue to cope up with the ongoing economic crisis caused by Covid-19 pandemic and allied lockdown.
Announcing the 10-point austerity measures, Assam's Finance and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Wednesday said that the state government has decided not to cut salaries of government employees for the month of April.
Claiming that the state government needs Rs 3,600 crore every month to pay salaries, pension and interest on loans, the minister, however, said that April's salaries employees would be paid on May 8 instead of paying it on the first of every month.
Elaborating the details of revenue scenario, Sarma told the media that while GST (Goods and Services Tax) collection in Assam was Rs 932.36 crore in April 2019, this month, the figure was just Rs 193 crore — a sharp drop of 80 per cent.
“Similarly, revenue collection from sale of liquor dropped from Rs 65 crore in March this year to just Rs 6.33 crore in April. Tax collection from sale of petroleum products dipped from an average of Rs 340 crore per month to just Rs 60 to 70 crore this month.”
The Minister said along with the worldwide health crisis caused by Covid-19 pandemic, a parallel crisis is threatening the economy because of the disease and related lockdown. Consecutively, to tackle the economic crisis, the state government has chalked out a series of austerity measures.
The Assam government had earlier announced cut in salaries of Chief Minister, ministers and MLAs from April. “From May 1, there would be a 25 per cent slash in the salaries of Chairman, and Vice-Chairman of PSUs and government boards and corporations,” Sarma said.
He said that there would be no industrial subsidies and reimbursement to the industries and factories for the first four months of the financial year, no new vehicles to be purchased by government departments except the ambulances and the vehicles for policing duties and no conferences, workshops, seminars, functions or fairs held till July.
Similarly, release of funds under the MLA Area Development would be suspended for the first four months of the financial year.
In Agartala, the Tripura government also initiated a 21-point austerity measures to cut the expenditure and to cope with the severe financial crisis.
Chief Secretary Manoj Kumar, in a notification, said that a minimum of 15 per cent savings must be achieved by all departments with regard to budgetary allocation of office expenses and other contingent expenditure.
“All government departments would ensure a minimum growth of 10 per cent in non-tax revenue collections,” the notification said.
Other austerity measures and improvement of revenue collections taken by the Tripura government include reduction in the electricity bills by 10 per cent, reduction of expenditure on telephone bills, utmost economy in organising functions, fairs, exhibitions, avoiding land acquisition, and restrictions in various purchases.
To generate revenues, the Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland governments have already increased the prices of petrol and diesel by adding Value Added Tax and cess.