COVID-19 pushed up spending on essentials by 80%

‘On crucial sectors, the govt. not only sustained the expenditure, but also stepped it up’

The pandemic led to a more than 80% rise in the expenditure of the State government on food and civil supplies during seven months of the current financial year, over the corresponding period in 2019-20.

Between April and October, the government spent ₹11,384 crore to ensure the steady supply of essentials through the public distribution system, as against an expenditure of ₹6,254 crore in 2019, an official in the Finance Department said.

Among the measures taken by the government were the provision of free ‘tur dal’, edible oil and sugar, along with rice, to all cardholders from April to July; cash support of ₹1,000 each to cardholders across the State; another ₹1,000 to cardholders in badly-hit districts in June, and the doubling of rice entitlement, even to non-priority household cards, up to November.

Other departments

Likewise, with respect to the Health and Family Welfare Department, which was also crucial in tackling COVID-19, the expenditure went up by around 30%. While the Department spent around ₹6,136 crore during the seven months in 2019, its bill rose to ₹7,967 crore this year.

With regard to relief and disaster management, the spending touched around ₹2,490 crore, against the previous year’s ₹500 crore — a hike of almost 400%.

On crucial sectors, the government, even amid an overall resource crunch, not just sustained the expenditure but also stepped it up, the official said.

There are other departments such as Adi-Dravidar and Tribal Welfare, where spending rose by 26% this year; Animal Husbandry by 7%, and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) by 23.5%, compared to the last year.

In the overall analysis, the government’s revenue expenditure fell by 6.5% this year. In absolute figures, this year’s figure was ₹1.07 lakh crore, whereas it was around ₹1.15 lakh crore last year. This is natural in view of measures such as non-payment of two additional installments of dearness allowance and enhancement of the retirement age, the official said.

On the revenue front, the collections through the State’s Own Tax netted around ₹48,340 crore, up to October, marking a fall of 20.5% over the previous year. Similarly, the share in Central taxes registered a decline of about 15%, with the State getting ₹12,448 crore.

‘Expenses met by State’

The official pointed out that a large portion of the additional expenditure, on account of the pandemic, was being met by the State government, on its own.

“This is why it has to resort to borrowings,” he said.

In the area of healthcare, the Centre has allotted around ₹712 crore, under the COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Package, and 5% of the cost of RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) testing kits.

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