The total expenditure made by the State due to COVID-19 comes to Rs 115.10 Crore: Conrad

Shillong, May 21: Meghalaya Chief Minister Mr Conrad K Sangma in his reply to the Zero Hours notice of Congress MLA from Mawlai Mr Process T Sawkmie today in the Re-Assemble budget session, said that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented economic and social disruption impacting health, livelihoods and overall well-being of individuals and communities across the globe.

The Government of India and the State Government have taken a number of steps towards containing the spread of COVID-19 since mid-March. The entire State machinery has been working tirelessly over the last two months to deal with the various challenges related to the pandemic.

The Government has put in place a three-pronged strategy to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. We are prioritising the improvement of health infrastructure, increasing the use of technology and building the capacity of communities to deal with the situation.

Strengthening the health infrastructure is the core first priority of our strategy. To ensure this, a number of investments were made in the health sector over the last two months.

Post the outbreak of the global pandemic, an amount of Rs 57.98 crore has been sanctioned by the State government to the Health and Family Welfare Department. Of this Rs 45.85 crore is from State’s resources and Rs 12.13 crore is Central Resources. This investment has helped improve the health infrastructure significantly.

The lockdown imposed to contain COVID-19 has adversely affected the livelihood, food security and income of the various sections of the society including construction workers, both registered and unregistered, farmers, entrepreneurs, citizens of the State stranded outside the State and the rural and urban poor.

In addition to implementing the various relief measures of the Government of India under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, the State Government, through its own resources, has taken up several relief measures. An amount of Rs 3,000 was credited to the bank accounts of 24,516 numbers of registered building and construction workers.

Further, an amount of Rs 2,100 is being credited to the bank accounts of 1,81,491 unregistered workers under the Chief Minister’s Relief Against Wage Loss Scheme. The Government is spending Rs 38.11 Crore on this measure. To provide relief to stranded citizens, an amount of Rs 3,000 has been credited to the bank accounts of 9,224  individuals costing Rs 2.77 Crore.

Additionally provision Kits providing 2-weeks rations and other essentials to individuals and households under quarantine have been supplied to about 10,000 households in the State costing approximately Rs 2 Crore.

An amount of Rs. 26.38 Crore has been provided to the Food and Civil Supplies Department for procurement and supply of 58,639 quintals of food grains under the open market sale scheme.

A total of Rs. 69.25 Cr is being spent from the State resources under various relief measures related to COVID-19. Combined with the Rs 45.85 crore spent on health expenditure, the total expenditure made by the State due to COVID-19 comes to Rs 115.10 Crore.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the imposition of lockdown to contain its spread, has adversely affected the economy of the Country as a whole with a corresponding impact on the revenue collection of both the Central and State Governments.

While the total state resources, tax and non-tax, collected in April 2019 was Rs 207.61 crore, the revenue collected in April 2020 was merely Rs 76.40 crore, a fall of Rs 131.21 crore in monthly revenue collection.

The releases from the Government of India have also been lesser than expected. While the budgetary estimate for monthly tax devolution was Rs 428 crore, we had only received Rs 352 crore in April, a shortfall of Rs 76 crore.

The Chief Minister who is also holding finance inform the house, that at a time when the revenues for the State and devolution from Centre are falling, the expenditure due to COVID-19 has increased, as already explained, by Rs. 115 Crore.More expenditure on health infrastructure, quarantine facilities and relief measures will have to be borne in the coming months.

Further, given the uncertainty around COVID, the Government is being prudent in managing its finances, as committed expenditures including on salaries, pensions and interest payments will have to be incurred.

The Chief Minister said that in order to stabilise the fiscal situation, the State Government has taken a precautionary step by imposing a partial deferment of the pay of the State Government employees and government aided institutions for the month of April and May 2020. The move is not a salary cut but a partial deferment of salary which will be made good in due course.

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