The AAP Government in Punjab has its major tasks cut before it for the month of its first anniversary in office. InvestPunjab conclave, Jalandhar Lok Sabha bye election and the first full-fledged regular Budget for the year 2023-24 are among the important tasks it has to accomplish in the coming few weeks. In March last year when Bhawant Mann took the oath of secrecy at historic Khatkar Kalan, the ruling AAP had little time to present a full budget at such a short notice. After passing a vote on the bill in its first session, it had its first Budget for the rest of the year a couple of months later.
Though the date for the budget session is still to be fixed, the State Finance Minister, Harpal Singh Cheema, has already gone public in claiming that the next Budget would be “people’s budget”. People of Punjab, he says, would have a major say in deciding their priorities.
Whatever is the procedure adopted to work out minute details of budgetary proposals, the AAP government faces its own challenges as many of the commitments it made to the electorate of the State before the last Assembly elections are still to be fulfilled. Major among these is a monthly grant of Rs 1000 to every eligible woman of the State.
Pre-election promises apart, the State Government continues to grapple with serious issues like reviving the agriculture sector, controlling menace of drugs, tackling unemployment, checking brain and brawn drain, besides arresting the deterioration in the fiscal health of the State. It also faces an arduous task in. handling controversies over its new, ambitious plans and projects, including Mohalla clinics.
Budget session will be an occasion when the State Government will get an opportunity to address most of the issues facing the State besides unfolding its plans for further development and industrialisation of the State.
In the last week of this month, the State Government hopes that captains of industry and leaders of trade and business, from both within and outside the country, will descend on Mohali to participate in the InvestPunjab conclave. Though previous such conclaves organised by the previous SAD-BJP and Congress governments met with limited success, the incumbent Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann is hopeful of getting some big national companies like Mafatlal, Hindustan Lever, Mahendra and Mahendra and others would see reason to make Punjab their new home for investments.
The State Government is also keen to encourage the existing industry to expand its wings by diversifying into new sectors to open new vistas for employment to the youth of the State, who in the absence of any remunerative job opportunities have been making a beeline for green pastures overseas.
The State Government is also keen to involve some rising stars of the IT sector, including those with expertise in cyber security, online trade and business and other relevant areas to make Punjab their home base by offering great employment opportunities to the youth of the State. The State is keen to use services of cyber security emerging star Trishneet Arora in its endeavour to keep the IT talent home for taking the State to new horizons of technology driven sectors.
After the InvestPunjab summit, the immediate task would be the Budget for 2023-24 that is expected to be presented before the State Legislature in the first half of March. Finance Minister Harpal Cheema has a tough and long line of important issues that need to be addressed in the budgetary proposals as the Opposition would use every opportunity to attack the treasury benches in the Budget session that will be, needless to forecast, will remain stormy and eventful.
The Budget session may coincide with announcement of bye-election to Jalandhar Lok Sabha seat. It will be an opportunity for all political parties to test their waters before the 2024 general elections.