CM presents deficit budget, Opp brands it poll-oriented

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Guwahati, Mar 10 (UNI) Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who also holds the Finance portfolio, today presented an over Rs 2800 crore deficit budget for 2008-09, with the Opposition decrying it as 'poll-oriented' and 'non-futuristic'.

The budget pegged the deficit for the next fiscal at Rs 2819.23 crore, with expenditure estimated at Rs 99,321.95 crore against estimated receipts of Rs 98,863.42 crore.

While the VAT was expemted on several food items to check price rise, it levied more tax on liquor and tobacco products. Women and government employees were benefited and so were flood-hit farmers, who received an interest waiver of two per cent on borrowings up to Rs 20,000.

The tea sector also earned special mention with proposals for greater incentive for tea buyers and sellers going through the state government route.

Development expenditure received the highest 44 per cent share of the estimated expenditure, with the government proposing various infrastructure development schemes.

The Chief Minister after laying the budget in the House, said, ''It is a development oriented budget. We are focusing on all key aspects, be it women, child, health or infrastructure development.'' He said it was a pro-people budget, in keeping with the Central government's vision for the people.

However, former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, criticizing the budget said, ''The allocations have been modeled around central government funding aids. It suggests no way to bridge the deficit gap.'' He also pointed that development had been proposed through loans, with no means suggested to repay the loans.

AGP leader Girindra Barua rued the fact that no special employment scheme was announced for the youth and said, ''It is not a populist budget and will not benefit the people.'' CPI legislator Dhrupad Borgohain said the budget did not have a futuristic approach, with no measures for sustained growth.

BJP legislative party chief Mission Ranjan Das termed the budget as election-oriented, with the Lok Sabha polls due next year.

Mr Gogoi was, however, quick to dismiss this allegation and said, ''The Congress is confident of sweeping the general elections in the state. The budget could help in bringing to fore our commitment but it is not prepared with the election in mind.'' UNI SG PP KLC SV RN1619

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