Delhi Budget 2017: Health, education focus of AAP's 'Outcome Budget', No New Tax

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Delhi Budget 2017: Health, education focus of AAP's 'Outcome Budget', No New Tax
Delhi Budget 2017: Health, education focus of AAP's 'Outcome Budget', No New Tax

New Delhi : Keeping up its focus on education and health, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister Manish Sisodia on Wednesday presented the AAP government's "Outcome Budget" - allocating almost a quarter of its Rs 48,000 crore outlay to the education sector.

With an outlay of Rs 11,300 crore (24 per cent) for education and Rs 5,736 crore (12 per cent) for health, Sisodia reiterated the Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP's) commitment to the two crucial social sectors.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal hailed the budget as poor-friendly and said the government was accomplishing a lot without raising tax rates.

"Under this outcome-oriented budget, there will be accountability of every single penny that is spent," the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader said.

Aiming at the upcoming municipal elections which the AAP is contesting, the government also announced a financial assistance of Rs 7,571 crore to local municipal bodies, or 15.8 per cent of the budget.

The total financial support to municipal bodies includes their share in tax collection (Rs 3,343 crore) and stamps and registration fee (Rs 1,810 crore).

It also includes Rs 1,718 crore from within Delhi government's outlay to health, transport, education and urban development sectors. Kejriwal said the government had allocated significantly more money to civic bodies this time so they could put their house in order.

Asked if the budget was framed with the municipal elections in mind, Kejriwal said there was nothing wrong with asking for votes in the name of government's work. Sisodia, who also holds the Education portfolio, said the government was committed to improving the quality of education in Delhi government schools.

"We were the first government to allocate maximum share to the education (sector) and this is the consecutive third year that we have been doing that," the AAP leader said to applause.

The Delhi government in the last financial year had allocated Rs 10,690 crore for the education sector. Sisodia said 24 new schools will start functioning this year while construction of 10,000 new classrooms will start during the next fiscal.

"Introduction of pre-primary classes in 156 government schools will be started in 2017-18 with upgraded infrastructure facilities."

Out of its Rs 48,000 crore Budget for the next financial year, the Delhi government has earmarked Rs 5,506 crore for transport, Rs 3,467 crore for social security and welfare, Rs 3,113 crore for urban development and Rs 2,108 crore for water supply and sanitation. Sisodia said 110 Mohalla Clinics are functional in Delhi and the number will be increased to 150 by the end of March.

"The government aims to set up 1,000 such clinics in the next financial year."

The number of polyclinics -- secondary healthcare centres -- will be increased from the existing 23 to 150 over the next financial year, he said. For improving the public transport system in the city, 736 more buses under cluster scheme will be added during 2017-18, the AAP leader said.

He added Rs 1,156 crore has been allocated to the Delhi Metro which would add 582 new metro coaches to its network. In another major announcement, Sisodia said that Value Added Tax (VAT) on Air Turbine Fuel (ATF) will be lowered from 25 per cent to 1 per cent for the flights destined to locations covered under the central government's Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) aimed at improving connectivity with remote areas.

He added that for the third year in a row, his government did not raise any of the existing tax rates or impose any new taxes in its budget. Instead of increasing taxes, Sisodia said, the AAP government reduced VAT on various commodities like timber, marble and granite from 12.5 per cent to 5 per cent.

VAT on sanitary napkins costing more than Rs 20 will also be lowered from the existing 12.5 per cent to 5 per cent, the Finance Minister said. Delhi government's budget for financial 2017-18 breaks away from the tradition of Plan and Non-Plan category.

The Budget allocation in this financial has been marked only between capital and revenue. Sisodia lauded Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) for its works towards women empowerment and increased its allocation by three times -- to Rs 120 crore. 

The government allocated Rs 2,194 to the energy sector and Rs 57 crore to the environment department.

Leader of Opposition Vijender Gupta said the AAP government's outcome budget was a "vague concept" and was "doomed to be a failure" because its step by step implementation was not linked to a given time frame.

"The speech of the Finance Minister is old wine in a new bottle. It projects a number of schemes for the year 2017-18 which could not be implemented during the current financial year," Gupta said.

ASSOCHAM hailed the budget calling it "well-structured and futuristic".

"Massive thrust on further improving the social infrastructure, more so in terms of promoting education and healthcare, are right policy actions aimed at transforming India into a world class urban city," D.S. Rawat, National Secretary General of ASSOCHAM, said.