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A meet on budget confusion, now
August, 11th 2011

State finance minister Amit Mitra will on Thursday place an account of the Centre and the states' resources needed to support the demands for grants that he had tabled on June 14. The statement will include the levies and taxes already introduced. The rest of the proposals are likely to be included in the Finance Bill scheduled on August 29.

So, what is this statement about - an updating of the budget or the vote-on-account? Trinamool Congress says the budget was placed on June 14. Opposition legislators point to the Assembly papers that announced the laying of the West Bengal Appropriation (Vote on Account) Number 2 Bill on July 14 to argue that it was nothing but a vote-on-account with no statement on tax proposals. Speaker Biman Banerjee doesn't agree to this view, but he has called an emergency business advisory committee meeting after the first half of the Assembly session, possibly to reach a consensus.

Leader of the Opposition Surjyakanta Mishra refuses to yield. "I do not know who is saying what. The finance minister placed a vote-on-account twice, which is unprecedented. He may table a statement on resources from the Centre to support his demands for grants placed earlier. But this was no budget," Mishra said.

Parliamentary minister Partha Chatterjee's chose to part ways. "The budget has already been placed.

A total 13 MLAs have put questions on what was placed on June 14, which proves that they are aware that the budget has been placed," Chatterjee said. Accordingly, the Speaker has provided for three hours of discussion each day on Thursday and Friday on the "budget."

"The budget has already been placed. At that time some members put questions on the budget but there was no scope of discussion. They may take the opportunity during the discussion for the coming two days," the Speaker said.

Mitra is likely to propose some additional resource mobilisation measures while placing the Finance Bill. In the meantime, the government wants to take stock of the central support and plan for the rest. There was no new taxation proposal, however, in the financial statement, though in full budgets customarily there are such proposals on resource mobilization. From August 16, discussions on departmental budgets would start. Besides, on August 29 the finance minister would introduce the Finance Bill on which there would be a discussion for four hours.

It may be mentioned that when the financial package from the Centre was being discussed in Delhi earlier this week, the Union finance ministry had advised the state to introduce taxation proposals in a full budget for additional resource mobilization.

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