Finance Minister Cheema Slams Opposition’s False Claims on Punjab’s Debt, Highlights Fiscal Achievements

Finance Minister Cheema Slams Opposition’s False Claims on Punjab’s Debt, Highlights Fiscal Achievements

Chandigarh, September 25:

Finance Minister Harpal Singh Cheema delivered a robust response to the opposition’s misleading allegations regarding the debt of the Punjab government led by Chief Minister Bhagwant Singh Mann. He laid bare the details of every rupee borrowed by the current state government and shed light on the debt legacy left by previous administrations.

In a press conference at Punjab Bhavan, Minister Cheema provided a comprehensive breakdown of Punjab’s finances. He stated that the state government had incurred a debt of Rs. 47,109 crore over the past one-and-a-half years, including Rs. 32,448 crore during the financial year 2022-23 and Rs. 14,661 crore from April 1, 2023, to August 31. Of this sum, Rs. 27,106 crore was allocated to pay interest on loans inherited from the Akali-BJP and Congress-led state governments.

Cheema highlighted that apart from directing Rs. 10,208 crore toward capital expenditure, the state government also shouldered the debt of Rs. 1,148 crore for PNSAP (Punjab State Agricultural Produce Markets) and the Punjab State Co-operative Agriculture Development Bank to safeguard these institutions. Additionally, Rs. 2,556 crore in electricity subsidy bills, owed by previous administrations to PSPCL (Punjab State Power Corporation Limited), was settled.

Other substantial payments included Rs. 798 crore for the Rural Development Fund, Rs. 1,008 crore for sugarcane farmers, and Rs. 1,750 crore for centrally sponsored schemes. Furthermore, Rs. 4,000 crore was invested in the sinking fund established by the central government to secure loans at more favorable rates.

Addressing the outstanding dues, Minister Cheema revealed that the total owed to the Center stood at Rs. 8,145 crore, encompassing Rs. 5,637 crore from the Rural Development Fund, Rs. 1,857 crore from Special Capital Assistance, and Rs. 651 crore from the National Health Mission (NHM). He appealed to Punjab Governor Banwari Lal Purohit for assistance in securing these pending amounts from the Central Government.

Minister Cheema countered opposition claims by highlighting the state’s fiscal accomplishments under Chief Minister Bhagwant Singh Mann’s leadership. Punjab registered a 17% increase in GST revenue and an impressive 44% surge in excise revenue. Additionally, taxes from vehicles witnessed a 13% rise, and stamp duty and registration revenues grew by 3%. The government successfully negotiated a reduction in the interest rate on the Rs. 32,000 crore cash credit limit loan from the Akali-BJP government to 7.35%, saving the state a substantial Rs. 3,500 crore.

During the press conference, Minister Cheema expressed that Punjab’s concerns would be vigorously presented at the forthcoming North Zonal Council meeting in Amritsar. He emphasized that during the previous council meeting, issues pertaining to the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) and Punjab University were effectively addressed.

Responding to queries about Haryana’s attempts to acquire land from Chandigarh for a separate assembly, Minister Cheema asserted that Chandigarh belongs to Punjab and will remain so. He suggested that Haryana could establish its separate assembly in Panchkula.

Regarding the Canada-India dispute, Minister Cheema urged the Prime Minister to swiftly engage in discussions with his Canadian counterpart, considering the significant number of Indian students and professionals in Canada.

Finally, in response to questions about former Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal, Minister Cheema called on him to face the law, questioning why he was evading it if he had done nothing wrong. He urged Badal to abandon his evasion and cooperate with the legal process.

In this comprehensive address, Finance Minister Harpal Singh Cheema conveyed the Punjab government’s commitment to transparency and fiscal responsibility while dismissing opposition misinformation.

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