Mumbai: Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday held a five-and-a-half hour long marathon meeting to take stock of the government debt and borrowings of Rs 6.71 lakh crore.
He also assessed a slew of transport infrastructure projects worth Rs 2 lakh crore in the state. Some of the major projects reviewed included the 300 kilometre Mumbai metro rail in MMR, metro corridors in Thane, Pune and Nagpur, Mumbai-Nagpur Samruddhi expressway and the Navi Mumbai international airport project.
Thackeray, at the outset, clarified to the department secretaries and managing directors of all the undertakings that the government has not stayed the implementation of ongoing projects, nor has he directed that the payment be stopped to contractors.
Instead, the CM insisted, the undertakings need to adhere to a time schedule to complete the projects. MMRDA commissioner R A Rajeev, MMRC MD Ashwini Bhide, CIDCO vice chairman and MD Lokesh Chandra, MSRDC vice chairman and MD Radheshyam Mopalwar and Maha Metro MD Brijesh Dixit were present at this meeting.
NCP minister Jayant Patil told the FPJ, ''Today, the CM and all ministers reviewed the present status of the state debt which is approximately Rs 6.71 lakh crore; we also discussed the time required to repay it. We assessed whether some projects, including the bullet train, can be deferred.''
The Devendra Fadnavis-led government had maintained all along that the public debt of Rs 4.14 lakh crore in 2018-19, which has soared to Rs 4.71 lakh crore, is 15.86 per cent of the gross state domestic product (GSDP).
As per the 13th and the 14th Finance Commission the public debt needs to be below 25 per cent of the GSDP. Interestingly, the previous government did not reveal the budget borrowing of Rs 2 lakh crore taken by various undertakings such as the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRC), the Maha Metro Rail Corporation, the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) and the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC). So, the cumulative debt is 24 per cent of the GSDP, leaving limited fiscal space for the government.
A senior bureaucrat said the government will take a call to retire some of the debt which has been taken at a higher interest rate of 9 per cent. Another NCP minister, Chhagan Bhujbal, observed that the Rs 1 lakh crore Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train is a white elephant.
"The objective of today's meeting is to understand the present status of the projects, discuss the difficulties in implementing them and find solutions for timely completion,'' he noted. Further, Shiv Sena minister Eknath Shinde clarified the Maha Vikas Aghadi government has not stayed any ongoing project.