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Bhagwant Mann’s dilemma: Long list of AAP freebies but Punjab coffers are empty

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The biggest challenge for comic-turned politician Bhagwant Singh Mann when he takes over as the new Chief Minister of Punjab will be to fulfill the promises of providing freebies promised to the people as the coffers of the state are empty.

The biggest challenge for comic-turned politician Bhagwant Singh Mann when he takes over as the new Chief Minister of Punjab will be to fulfill the promises of providing freebies promised to the people as the coffers of the state are empty.

In addition to the freebies allowed by the previous government, Aam Aadmi Party has promised 300 units of free electricity to each household and Rs 1,000 to every woman above the age of 18 years in the state, old-age pension is to be increased to Rs 2500 per month.

Besides 6000 mohalla clinics have been promised in Punjab for providing free treatment and property tax which is an important source of income for the state is to be abolished.

Such is the plight of the state exchequer that there is not enough money even to pay the salaries of government employees which are being staggered. There have been regular protests by the employees against the delayed payment of salaries.

According to rough estimates if AAP's promises of freebies are kept the new government would need at least Rs 5,000 crore every month which seems beyond the means of the state's exchequer. How will a government trapped in a fund crunch deliver what it has promised?

In the run-up for elections, the Congress government distributed freebies worth Rs 33,000 crores which has further battered the finances of the state. When the Congress government had taken over from the Akali-BJP government it had a debt legacy of Rs 1.82 lakh crores which now stands at a whopping Rs 350 lakh crores. A huge interest has to be paid on  this debt each quarter.

Punjab has an annual budget of Rs 1.50 lakh crores while the  total revenue receipts in this fiscal were only Rs 95,257 crores.

Bhagwant Mann's challenges will include exploring new avenues to generate revenue and to arrest revenue loss from illegal mining, illicit liquor trade, and the official patronage to private transport companies which has come at the cost of the government transport sector.

It is definitely going to be an uphill task for the AAP government to live up to its promises of liberal freebies announced as part of its poll campaign to woo voters.

Also read:  Why top Congress and Akali Dal leaders were wiped out in the Punjab polls