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Himachal CM woos voters with budget bonanzas

Shimla, Feb 7 (IANS) With an eye to woo the common man ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh Friday presented a populist but deficit Rs.23,613-crore budget for 2014-15 with no new taxes.

The chief minister, who also holds the finance portfolio, announced a 10 percent dearness allowance from July 1 last year for over 250,000 government employees and pensioners.

"The increased dearness allowance will also be given to the pensioners of the government. The additional annual benefit to the government employees and the pensioners will be to the tune of Rs.580 crore," he said.

Presenting his 17th budget spread over his record five chief ministerial stints in the state, Singh announced increase in daily wages from Rs.150 to Rs.170 and that all daily wage earners, who would complete seven years of service till March 2014, would be regularised.

All people above the age of 80 will get a social security pension of Rs.1,000 per month irrespective of any income limit, except those drawing any other pension.

Official sources said 60,000 new octogenarians would be covered under the social security pension.

The chief minister in his budget speech, which was boycotted by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said the estimated expenditure on salaries is Rs.7,647 crore and pensions Rs.3,496 crore.

He said the estimated interest payments would be Rs.2,750 crore and loan repayments are expected to be Rs.1,511 crore apart from Rs.367 crore on other loans and Rs.1,840 crore on maintenance.

According to budget estimates, the chief minister said the total revenue receipts are estimated at Rs.16,522 crore and the total revenue expenditure is estimated to be Rs.19,784 crore with a revenue deficit of Rs.3,262 crore.

The expected receipts in capital account are Rs.3,860 crore apart from Rs.1,125 crore in public account, including provident fund.

The capital expenditure, including loan repayments, is estimated to be Rs.3,830 crore. The fiscal deficit for 2014-15 is likely to be Rs.5,354 crore, he said.

"As per the budget estimates, against an expenditure of every Rs.100, the state will have Rs.70.82 as the total receipts, including transfers from the central government, excluding loans."

"The gap of Rs.29.18 will be met by borrowings and ways and means advances. Out of every Rs.100 of state revenue receipts, Rs.32.31 will be accrued from own tax revenues, Rs.8.41 from non-tax revenues, Rs.20.36 from share in central taxes and Rs.38.92 from central grants," he said.

Out of every Rs.100 spent, salaries will account for Rs.32.38, pensions Rs.14.80, interest payments Rs.11.64, loan repayments Rs.6.40 and the remaining Rs.34.78 will be spent on developmental works, including other activities, the chief minister said.

For toppers of Classes 10 and 12, netbooks will be provided to 7,500 students.

The BJP described the budget as aimless.

"It's an effort to mislead people in the run-up to the general elections. It's laden with announcements with little benefits actually passed on to the common man," Leader of Opposition and former two-time chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal told reporters.

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