Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh’s honeymoon is over. Although he was seen struggling with inherited financial troubles in the first SPF government his second tryst with power in SPF-II was a honeymoon with abundant funds flowing in the state from a confident Congress led government at New Delhi. With the UPA coalition in tenterhooks in the run-up to the 2014 parliamentary elections, the centre is pulling up its purse strings tighter. So as a result, Chief Minister Ibobi Singh begins his third innings with an overdraft followed by a negative balance every month of the year. The ominous sign was there in the Governor’s address in March this year. While claiming that his government has been able to maintain revenue surplus for seven consecutive years and has not gone into overdraft since 2005-06, the Governor had admitted that the implementation of the 6th Pay Commission has imposed severe fiscal stress. The address had also cited under-assessment of the state`s Non-Plan requirements by the 8th Finance Commission. In stark contrast the Governor’s address in March last year was very optimistic.
While congratulating itself for striking a balance between fiscal consolidation and enhanced Plan investment for accelerating growth and development, it had said the state government is committed to abide by the targets envisaged in the Manipur Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act and all concerted efforts shall be made to further improve the fiscal situation.
Something went wrong somewhere. Rumors of a three digit overdraft have been doing the rounds since the new government took over in March this year including even news reports. And it has now been confirmed. The enhanced State Plan outlay of Rs 3500 crores was dampened with a cut of Rs 495 crores. The Chief Minister admitted in his budget speech that the impact of the overdraft was so severe that every month of this year ended with a negative cash balance. He however did not spell out the areas of expenditure control through which there has been some improvement. Also he had the cheek to congratulate himself on achieving a negative cash balance of only Rs 40 crores as of June 29 last. Yet one thing is very clear from the budget speech. His hands are tied by the Manipur Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act. And he is finding it hard to juggle up numbers for his pet projects. Everyone knows, the Chief Minister has been piping the development mantra and has been pushing for string of earmarked projects under the much touted Special Plan Assistance (SPA) while neglecting a holistic approach and balanced plan assistance. We, the Ibobi government has been very selective in doling out special plan assistance even to the extent of making Manipur Development Society (MDS) the most favored work agency of the state at the cost of government departments. Questions have been raised on this special status. And he had been calling names to citizens who have been questioning his skewed-development antics. Everyone who raises his voice against his so-called development projects has been dubbed anti-development. Now we must ask, where has your development gone wrong? What went wrong in the intervening period between March 2011 to March 2012 with regard to Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management? Responsibility has to be fixed for the mess or gross mismanagement of state finances. A high powered committee headed by the state Chief Secretary has been serving show cause notices to retired bureaucrats for irregularities in appointment of contract employees under the Manipur Government Servant Personnel Liability Act. At least a former Secretary in-charge of Board of Secondary Education, Manipur and a former Director of Youth Affairs and Sports was served such notices. The Act became a rage with the centre congratulating the then Chief Secretary Jarnail Singh for the innovation. Well, in the present mess Okram Ibobi Singh who has been handling and is still handling the Finance portfolio must be the one to give answers. If he cannot explain himself he has to go.