Experts Express Concern Over Unspent Funds Allocated In Odisha Budget

Bhubaneswar: The size of the Odisha budget has been increasing every year and touched Rs 2.3 lakh crore in financial year 2023-24, which is a positive trend. But it is a matter of concern that a major part of the allocated fund remains unspent, said Jugal Kishore Mohapatra, former Union Secretary, Department of Fertilizers and Rural Development.

Mohapatra was speaking during a panel discussion on “Value for Money: An Analysis of Odisha State Budget 2023-24”, organised by the Odisha Budget and Accountability Centre (OBAC) in Bhubaneswar on Thursday.

“In the last five years, Rs 67,000 crore allocated under different heads remained unspent. There has been 10-12% gap in the estimated budget and the actual expenditure,” he said.

He urged the authorities for capacity building of the state machineries to sort out systemic and procedural hurdles and set up monitoring mechanisms to achieve 100% expenditure of the allocated budget. Congratulating the state for the increasing proportion of capital expenditure which is associated with investment, he said development spending is an indicator of a progressive economy.

Economist Pravas Mishra expressed concern that the State Budget-2023-24 has little provision to address crucial issues like poor infrastructure and staff crunch in primary healthcare facilities. Though health sector this year received a major allocation of Rs 16,048 crore, registering a raise of about 27% over the previous year, the increase has mainly gone to schemes for creation and expansion of healthcare infrastructure and establishment of medical colleges which mainly contribute to tertiary healthcare services, he added.

Though Odisha is credited to be one among the few states which formulated separate budgets for agriculture, climate change, child development and nutrition, there should be a proper monitoring system to gauge whether positive changes are effected at the ground level, Mishra pointed out.

SN Mishra, Professor of Emeritus, KIIT University, said the focus of State Budget is more on the secondary education, whereas enhancing quality of school and pre-school education keeping in view the huge learning loss and dropout rate due to the COVID-19 pandemic received a short shrift.

According to the budget analysis by OBAC, the fund allocation to the Department of Mission Shakti, which is dedicated to strengthening women self help groups, has increased to Rs 2,554 crore this fiscal from Rs 2,000 crore in the last fiscal. However, the allocation in capacity building of SHGs has decreased by more than 56%.

The combined allocation of Rs 288 crore for livelihood, skill development and capacity building is far from sufficient to cater to more than 6 lakh SHGs consisting of more than 70 lakh women.

Asha Hans, president, Sansriti, underlined the need for a gender specific and gender sensitive budget to make women self-reliant economically and increase their participation in different sectors. “The budget should have made provisions to address the increasing rate of crime against women that has increased three-fold in recent years,” she said.

Madhubrata Satapathy, Department of Economics, BJB Autonomous College, said the state should allocate additional funds through specific programmes and schemes to address the atrocities against women.

“It is a good sign that the aspiration of people from the budget has increased with the increase of resources,” said Satyapriya Rath, additional secretary, Finance department. He urged people to provide quality inputs which would be included in the climate budget.

Among others, economists, academicians, agriculturists, students, farmer leaders, development practitioners and senior citizens’ representatives participated in the programme.

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