Saturday, Nov 16, 2002
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By Radha Venkatesan
For the first time, the Government imposed a 5 per cent surcharge on almost all commodities covered under sales tax to create a fund for improving infrastructure. Four months after the launch of the levy, as much as Rs. 55 crores accrued to the State coffers, but the fund is yet to be created.
In August, about Rs. 18 crores in surcharge flowed in, the next month the collection fell by Rs. 1 crore, but rose to Rs. 20 crores in October. However, enquiries reveal, the Government is still in the process of issuing a notification for use of the surcharge for infrastructure projects. As of now, the collections go into a common pool of the State Consolidated Fund.
The Finance department has drawn up guidelines for various projects for which the surcharge could be used _ from undertaking special repairs such as widening or relaying of roads to even mega-power projects. A high-level committee may be formed to clear the project proposals.
In his 2002-2003 budget, the Finance Minister, C. Ponnaiyan, said the Government hoped to raise around Rs. 230 crores annually through the surcharge, which was being levied to "meet the rising requirements" in the critical sector of infrastructure development. "In order to provide better quality of life to the people and also better quality of operative environment to business and industry, infrastructure development is of critical importance."
In the recent rain, the people, particularly in Chennai, felt the absence of the "critical" infrastructure requirement, despite the collection of crores of surcharge.
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