Thrust on welfare in Andhra's last budget before polls

Hyderabad, March 18 (IANS) Hike in allocations for welfare and other social services sectors and marginal increase in economic services were the highlights of 2013-14 budget of Andhra Pradesh.

Presenting its last budget before next year's elections, the Congress government hiked the allocations for the welfare of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, backward classes and minorities in an attempt to woo these sections of the society.

Finance Minister Anam Ramanarayana Reddy presented a tax-free, revenue-surplus budget with an overall expenditure of over Rs.1.61 lakh crore (nearly $30 billion), an increase of 10 percent over 2012-13 budget.

He told the assembly during his budget speech that the overall expenditure during 2013-14 would be Rs.1,61,348 crore, comprising Rs.1,01,926 crore under non-plan and Rs.59,422 crore under plan heads.

The allocation for social services including welfare, education, health, housing, urban development and water supply has gone up from Rs.43,915 crore (revised estimate for 2012-13) to Rs.52,858 crore.

The finance minister described the budget as momentous as it is the first budget after the state enacted a historic legislation in December last year to give statutory status to the scheduled castes (SC) and scheduled tribe (ST) sub-plans.

Under this legislation, the first in the country, funds have been allocated separately to SC and ST sub-plans in proportion to the population of these sections.

The total allocation for SC sub-plan in 2013-14 budget is Rs.8,585 crore and for the tribal sub-plan Rs.3,666 crore, which is 16.21 and 6.92 percent of the annual plan size respectively.

Describing it as a welfare budget, Reddy told reporters later that the allocation for backward classes increased by 33 percent (from Rs.3,014 crore to Rs.4,027 crore) and for minorities by 110 percent (from Rs.488 crore to Rs.1,1027 crore).

After the presentation of the budget, Agriculture Minister Kanna Lakshminarayana presented first-ever exclusive agriculture action plan for comprehensive development of agriculture and allied sector.

Agriculture and allied sectors have been allocated Rs.6,128 crore against Rs.5,605 in the previous budget.

The allocation for irrigation and flood control has been enhanced from Rs.20,829 crore to Rs.23,023 crore, including Rs.13,800 crore for various irrigation projects under 'Jalayagnam' programme.

The finance minister has proposed Rs.6,770 crore for urban development against Rs.5,776 crore in the previous budget. The government will spend an additional Rs.1980 crore for land acquisition, relief and rehabilitation for the prestigious Hyderabad Metro Rail Project.

The budget also made an outlay of Rs.3,725 crore to bring Godavari river water and Rs.1,670 crore for Krishna Phase-III project to meet the drinking water needs of Hyderabad.

The finance minister announced that the state will invest Rs.1,738 crores by leveraging funds under National Rural Health Mission and 13th Finance Commission grants in addition to its own resources to strengthen the health service delivery system.

At constant (2004-05) prices, the GSDP for 2012-13 is estimated to be Rs.4,26,470 crore - a growth of 5.29 per cent over the previous year.

He claimed that the per capita income has more than tripled in a span of nine years - from Rs.25,321 in 2004-05 to Rs.77,277 by 2012-13, reflecting definite positive impact of the developmental programmes on the standard of living of the people.

The state would lay greater emphasis on agriculture and manufacturing during 12th five-year plan (2012-17) for achieving rapid and inclusive growth. Andhra Pradesh leads amongst all the states and union territories with the largest projected outlay of over Rs.3,42,842 crore for the 12th plan.

The state has set a target to attain sectoral growth of 6 percent for agriculture, 10.5 percent for industry and 11.5 percent for services leading to an overall growth target of 10 percent for the 12th plan.

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