Made additional efforts to clear Punjab’s GST dues: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

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Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said she made additional efforts to clear Punjab’s pending GST dues of more than Rs 1,400 crore, which should be recognised.

Her remarks came against the backdrop of the Congress-led Punjab government often accusing the Centre of delaying Goods and Services Tax (GST) payments to the state.

At the same time, she lauded the Manohar Lal Khattar-led Haryana government for handling its fiscal affairs very well, noting that the state had not resorted to availing additional borrowings which were extended by the Centre for all states because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I definitely want to say what I did for Punjab,” Sitharaman said while replying to a question at a press conference here.

She highlighted the assessment of some calculations based on the 2015-16 base year.

She said in 2019, Manpreet Singh Badal, who was Punjab’s finance minister at that time, met her.

“He told me there is a problem… I particularly paid attention to it and I cleared over Rs 1,400 crore for Punjab. For Punjab, it is not negative or less. I made additional efforts to clear their funds in GST. Please recognise it,” she said.

On the funding pattern for the Border Area Development Programme, she said the northeastern and Himalayan hilly states get funds from the Centre in the ratio of 90:10 (Centre’s share: state share).

For other states, including Punjab, the ratio is 60:40, she said, while asserting that the Central government did not fix it arbitrarily.

It has been fixed at the recommendation of the Finance Commission, she stated.

Punjab has been asking the Centre to increase the funding ratio to 90:10.

To a question on how better Haryana is placed in terms of fiscal management, she said, “I must say that it is one of those states which is absolutely consciously managing its fiscal affairs in a very balanced and in an objective way. I am not saying because I am sitting here and I have Haryana ministers here.”

She said every state’s borrowing capacity was widened in the wake of the pandemic.

“Haryana is one state which did not utilise its additional capacity of borrowings. They thought they would be able to manage and they managed without borrowing additionally,” she said.

Sitharaman added she had a quick word with Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on the matter and he said, “We did not require to borrow.”

“So, yes Haryana is managing its fiscal matters very well,” she said.

Sitharaman was here to take part in party events in Panchkula, Haryana in connection with the ‘Seva and Samarpan’ campaign.

To mark Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two decades in public service, the BJP is organising a 20-day ‘Seva and Samarpan’ campaign comprising various welfare activities that commenced on his birthday on September 17. Haryana BJP chief O P Dhankar and former union minister Rattan Lal Kataria were also present at the press conference.

Before addressing the press meet, Sitharaman met the Haryana Chief Minister at the latter’s residence here.

“Ongoing projects of the state and various development related works were discussed in the meeting,” Khattar tweeted. “It was a pleasure to meet and host the Union Finance Minister.”

Addressing a seminar on ‘Economic Improvement and prosperity’ organised as part of ‘Seva Samarpan Parv’ in Panchkula later in the day, Sitharaman said transformational change of economy is the government’s target.

Skilling and youth employment are the utmost priority areas of the Centre, she said, according to a state government release.

Taking a jibe at the Congress, she accused them of leaving the country’s economy in dire straits.

The finance minister spelled out several steps taken by the present government to put the economy back on track.

Sitharaman also visited the ‘Mega Vaccination Drive’ at Community Centre in Sector 17, Panchkula.

She was accompanied by Haryana Vidhan Sabha Speaker Gian Chand Gupta, Health Minister Anil Vij and former union minister Rattan Lal Kataria.

She interacted with beneficiaries who had been administered the vaccine and praised the healthcare workers and officers of the Health Department for ensuring a smooth vaccination drive.

The finance minister also lauded the state for effectively conducting vaccination programmes and congratulated Vij for the same.

Earlier, she paid obeisance at Mata Mansa Devi Temple in Panchkula.

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