Money poor

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There is simply no money in the government coffers although on paper there are records of crores of rupees being deposited in the 8449 accounts of the last financial year 2011-12 which ended on 31 March this year. Ever since the new Okram Ibobi government came into power in March, it has been faced with near about four digit overdrafts and salaries of government employees for months has been put on hold, while various bills relating to the so-called development works are not being released. And work in the major projects has been delayed as the Centre has shut off the money tap due to non-submission of utilization certificates of funds sanctioned earlier. Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh’s honeymoon is over. Although he was seen struggling with inherited financial troubles in the first SPF government his second tryst with power in SPF-II was a honeymoon with abundant funds flowing in the state from a confident Congress led government at New Delhi. With the UPA coalition in tenterhooks in the run-up to the 2014 parliamentary elections, the centre is pulling up its purse strings tighter. So as a result, Chief Minister Ibobi Singh begins his third innings with an overdraft followed by a negative balance every month of the year. The ominous sign was there in the Governor’s address in March this year. While claiming that the government has been able to maintain revenue surplus for seven consecutive years and has not gone into overdraft since 2005-06, the government had admitted that the implementation of the 6th Pay Commission has imposed severe fiscal stress. The address had also cited under-assessment of the state’s Non-Plan requirements by the 8th Finance Commission. In stark contrast the Governor’s address in March last year was very optimistic. While congratulating itself for striking a balance between fiscal consolidation and enhanced Plan investment for accelerating growth and development, it had said the state government is committed to abide by the targets envisaged in the Manipur Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act and all concerted efforts shall be made to further improve the fiscal situation. Something went wrong somewhere. The enhanced State Plan outlay of Rs 3500 crores was dampened with a cut of Rs 495 crores. The Chief Minister admitted in his budget speech that the impact of the overdraft was so severe that every month of this year ended with a negative cash balance. He however did not spell out the areas of expenditure control through which there has been some improvement. Also he had the cheek to congratulate himself on achieving a negative cash balance of only Rs 40 crores as of June 29 last. Yet one thing is very clear from the budget speech. His hands are tied by the Manipur Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act. And he is finding it hard to juggle up numbers for his pet projects. Everyone knows, the Chief Minister has been piping the development mantra and has been pushing for string of earmarked projects under the much touted Special Plan Assistance (SPA) while neglecting a holistic approach and balanced plan assistance. We had earlier said, the Ibobi government has been very selective in doling out special plan assistance even to the extent of making Manipur Development Society (MDS) the most favoured work agency of the state at the cost of government departments. Questions have been raised on this special status. And he had been calling names to citizens who have been questioning his skewed-development antics. Everyone who raises his voice against his so-called development projects has been dubbed anti-development. Now we must ask, where has your development gone wrong? What went wrong in the intervening period between March 2011 to March 2012 with regard to Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management? Responsibility has to be fixed for the mess or gross mismanagement of state finances. Well, in the present mess it was Okram Ibobi who has been handling and is still handling the Finance portfolio, and he must explain himself. If he cannot explain himself he has to go. Why should the state suffer from his antics?

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