Inclusive development key to Union Budget 2008-09

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New Delhi, Feb 18: The UPA Government is all set to go down in history for bringing about a total transformation in the funding pattern of the Central Government towards various schemes with the coming Budget being the platform for this.

Notwithstanding the ongoing debate among various schools of thought on whether India should have focused approach on giving equal emphasis to all sectors, the coalition Government having umbilical chord with the left partners, would be doubling allocations to 21 major schemes in the Budget, informed sources say. From just over Rs 54,000 crores allocation for these 21 schemes in 2005-06, the Government is all set to take it to over Rs 1,09,000 crores in three years times, indicating clearly its resolve to pursue the National Common Minimum Progarmme (NCMP) in toto without compromising on its commitment to step up the growth rate.

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Driving their model on the statistical findings that the consumption pattern in rural India was not matching the national pattern, mandarins in the UPA government rightly picked up the strings from the NCMP to give a thrust to social sectors.

From just over Rs 2,775 crores of allocation in 2005-06 to rural housing, Budget 2008-09 is likely to allocate more than Rs 5,400 crores.

Likewise, programmes like Pardhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna are likely to get a massive increase in the allocation, possibly a jump from Rs 4,235 crores in 2005-06 to Rs 7,530 crores.

Proposals also include a quantum jump in programmes like Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyuti Karan Yojna (for rural electrification) and Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) where allocations will again witness an increase of nearly 200 per cent.

To supplement the efforts aimed at securing rural votes, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's team of advisers is further set to increase allocations to schemes which build the tempo for development. These are schemes like Backward Region Grant Fund and Jawahar Lal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission.

In yet another boost to the rural economy, the Budget is likely to formally announce the launching of Skill Development Mission and Rashtria Krishi Vikas Yojna with allocations being made to the tune of more than Rs 3,000 crores and Rs 300 crores respectively.

Clubbed with already announced Food Security Mission and National Horticulture Mission the government will avail this last opportunity before the General Elections to woo the deprived sections of the society with an announcement of a health insurance scheme for labour.

All indications are that Finance Minister P Chidambaram will not risk falling back on the stiff targets set under the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act, while meeting the aspirations of the coalition government of which he is a part.

To match the figures and to meet the fund requirements of various non-social sector schemes, the Budget would look towards increased partnership with the private sector and also aim at enhancing the ability of Public Sector Units to raise funds form the market.

The intention of the government to allow PSUs to raise funds from the market without diluting the government's role was made clear when the it sought National Development Council's approval in this regard.

In addition, States would also be contributing their share to these priority programmes and it is felt that judicious implementation should make sufficient visible impact to secure votes for the UPA coalition.

But historically the States have been using these programmes to their advantage by giving a local touch. For instance, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has efficiently followed Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's game plan for taking credit from the UPA's programmes.

Indications are that the UPA will not take this as a fait accompli this time and multi crore programmes are already in the pipeline to educate the masses about the initiatives launched by the UPA government.

UNI

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