The Andhra Pradesh state budget for 2019-20 which was presented on Friday has been touted as a ‘welfare budget’ focused on agriculture and social welfare. The YSRCP’s first budget has an outlay of Rs 2,27,974 crore, of which Rs 28,866 crore has been allocated to the agriculture sector.
Speaking to TNM, political analyst Telakapalli Ravi feels that the budget lacks a holistic approach towards reimagining development in the state. “The most significant aspect is the allocation for Navaratnalu schemes. The Amma Vodi scheme is also a commendable initiative. But, there doesn’t seem to be much change in the overall economic model,” says Ravi.
The budget has been designed with a presupposition of receiving grants of Rs 61,071 crore from the Centre. Ravi says that these aspirations are highly impractical.
“Last year, the state received grants worth Rs 19,456 crore from the Centre. The attitude of the Centre has not changed much since then, so the projections are a bit unrealistic. There’s a big gap between what the state government is hoping for and what can be achieved,” says Ravi.
While the Telugu Desam Party has predictably critiqued several aspects of the budget, TDP chief and Leader of Opposition Chandrababu Naidu has said that the allocations for Amma Vodi scheme is only sufficient to benefit 43 lakh students, while 78 lakh students are eligible for the scheme.
Lashing out at the budget, Naidu said that it lacked direction and foresight. Critiquing the lack of measures to create wealth, Naidu also rubbished the YSRCP’s claims of implementing 80% of their manifesto within a year, since the ruling party had announced that some of the schemes would be implemented in the coming years.
Commenting on the issue of interest-free loans for farmers, which led to a heated debate in the Assembly between Naidu and Jagan, TDP spokesperson and former chairperson of the AP Women Finance Corporation P Anuradha points out that the target for agricultural credit for the year is more than Rs 1 lakh crore. After the Centre’s subsidy, farmers would have to pay 4% interest on these loans. To make them interest-free, the state government would need to pay 4% of the loan amount, i.e., Rs 4,000 crore, on behalf of farmers. But the allocation for the interest-free loan scheme in the budget is only Rs 100 crore, says Anuradha.
Anuradha also said that while the interest subsidies for Self Help Group members under the DWCRA (Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas) scheme was announced at Rs 3,036 crore, the allocation has been only Rs 1,788 crore.
Naidu also said that the allocations made for cold storages, godowns, borewells and infrastructure development was not sufficient to fulfil the promise of doubling farmers’ incomes by 2022.
While the YSRCP government has promised a phased prohibition of liquor, Ravi points out that the projected rise in excise revenue from Rs 6,000 crore to Rs 8,000 crore is also contradictory to these claims.
Speaking about the reduced allocation of Rs 500 crore towards the development of Amaravati, Ravi says that while it may be true that there’s only been some activity around the capital with not much progress, deprioritising it now would be like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Ravi points out that in spite of the huge victory for the YSRCP in the state’s Rayalaseema region, the budget does not particularly focus on the underdeveloped region. Similarly, the Uttarandhra region has also not received much attention.
“These areas continue to be exploited through mining activities, but there is no mention of how to tackle the depletion of resources and to work towards development in these areas,” says Ravi. He also points out that funds for irrigation have reduced by 22%.
Ravi says that Jagan has mostly been focused on unearthing allegations of misgovernance against the TDP government and his Navaratnalu, and that is what has been reflected in the budget and his term so far.