The Punjab Finance Minister today said he was not "disheartened" by the absence of any financial relief for the state in the Union Budget, although the state's ruling SAD-BJP alliance had been pushing for special packages to battle its economic woes. "We are not disheartened... We are hopeful of industrial packages in due course of time. It was difficult for the Centre to bail out any state at this point, particularly when there is fiscal stress and not-so good economic conditions," Punjab Finance Minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa said.
He said they would aggressively push for financial package in the near future. "We will be pursuing our case aggressively with the Centre to seek industrial package and restructuring of loan," Dhindsa said. The Akali-BJP government in Punjab had been demanding industrial incentives on the lines of package given to hilly states like neighbouring Himachal Pradesh in order to boost the state's industrial growth, and restructuring of loans.
The state had been claiming that tax concessions to the neighbouring states including Himachal had led to an unwarranted flight of industry from Punjab. The Punjab government had presented a Vote-on Account for four months of current fiscal and had decided to come out with a full budget for 2014-15 in light of "fresh and people friendly policies of new central government".
After the BJP-led NDA government came to power, Punjab had sought from Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley a special financial package for the state including the reimbursement of Rs 2,694 crore already repaid out of Special Term Loan. It had also demanded release of an amount of Rs 5,000 crore as non-plan grant for the current financial year till the 14th Finance Commission's report was out, and was hoping for debt waiver from the Centre. The state government has attributed its huge debt largely to militancy and inadequate support from the erstwhile central governments.
Already carrying a dubious tag of "debt-stressed" state, Punjab's total outstanding debt is projected to cross whopping Rs 1 lakh crore mark in last fiscal. However, Dhindsa dubbed the Union Budget presented by Jaitley as "pro growth" and appreciated it for announcing steps like Rs 5,000 crore for warehousing facility and giving an IIM to Punjab.