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BehraSenior BJD leader Sashi Bhusan Behera was given charge of the Finance and Excise department recently.

A short Interview with Odisha finance minister by Sandeep Pattnaik & Brahmipriya Samantray

Q. Congratulations to you Sir for taking charge as Finance Minister of Odisha. How would you take the challenge?

Ans. Finance is a key department among all departments. I am grateful to our Hon’ble Chief Minister for assigning me such an important portfolio. It is really a challenge for me in a financially challenged and a neglected state like Odisha to took over as FM. However, Government is sincerely working to meet the expectations of the people of the State for last 17 years. In a federal structure, the Centre has to respond States. We have been demanding a special category status for Odisha, which is our number one agenda, was not met.

Q. How do you see the State’s GDP growth ahead? 

Ans. With increasing loan burden of the State, still our Government has been able to maintain populist schemes over the years, which is a cost for us. Implementation of 7th Pay Commission and Centre’s apathy by not hearing to our demand to increase the State’s share in manufacturing/mining/railway mars our revenue growth. Hence improvement in GSDP taking above factors into account is difficult.

Q. Government’s key mission according to you… 

Ans. Continuing of social welfare schemes, eradicating unemployment & promote women empowerment, besides increasing investment in tourism & culture, infrastructure like railway and roads.

Q. Despite Govt’s populist measures, you have to face a poll debacle in recent Panchayat elections. What is your say on this? 

Ans. We have done poor only in bordering states, which is a temporary phenomena. BJP has the win in 16 out of 30 districts, which will not impact our party image. Have you heard of central leaders from a party [BJP] came for even a Panchayat election…? They are scared of our party popularity.

Q. GST is a dream come true? How Odisha will benefit out of this tax structure? 

Ans. It is difficult as of now to assess the financial benefit to the State, as it is yet to be implanted fully in letter and spirit. Earlier there was dissimilarity in tax laws across States. GST is going to address this. As Odisha is basically a consuming state (not a producer state), hence financial impact will be minimal.

Q. But opposition had a hue and cry regarding the GST bill passed in the assembly bypassing their suggestions… 

Ans. If you will see, GST was a topic of discussion since Vajpayee, UPA I & UPA II rule. BJP & Congress were part of the agenda since the beginning. Hence their claims have no substance.

June 7, 2017 • No Comment