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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XIX No. 24, april 1-15, 2010
This budget causes concern
to some
(By a Staff Reporter)

The Chennai Corporation has in recent years become one of the better administered civic bodies in the country. Its efforts of late to computerise records and beautify parks have, in particular, come in for much appreciation. But when it presented its budget for 2010/11 earlier in March, its lack of focus on infrastructure and its long-term financial viability has caused many a citizen concern.

Ripon Building, home to those responsible
for the city’s facilities.

On the positive side, the civic body has continued its trend of improving its tax collection record. Property tax collection rose by 17% to Rs. 375 crore in the last year and the Corporation is committed to maintaining this trend in the coming year also.

However, its income and expenditure statement would give cause for worry if it were a private organisation. Its tax revenue forecast is Rs. 530 crore for 2010/11 while its establishment expenses (read salaries) total Rs. 576 crore! This would indicate that the civic body is under financial constraint and will, therefore, be unable to maintain itself in the long-run. However, looking at the total figures, the deficit is marginal – around Rs. 1.30 crore, with total revenue and expenditure standing at around Rs. 1800 crore. But the Corporation would do well to take a serious look at its payroll and debate on a paring down of numbers. Incidentally, if we are to look at comparisons, Mumbai’s budget for the same period is of the order of Rs. 21,000 crore.

A 200-bed hospital is to be constructed in South Chennai specialising in treatment of communicable diseases. All Corporation schools will be renamed Chennai Schools and efforts would be undertaken to bring them up to the standards of Kendriya Vidyalayas. Under the capital expenditure for the 2010-11 period, the civic body has earmarked Rs. 250 crore for stormwater drains, Rs. 30 crore for bus route roads development, Rs. 60 crore for bridges, Rs. 70 crore for constructing buildings, Rs. 5 crore for maintaining parks and gardens, Rs. 5 crore for installing basic amenities in its schools and Rs. 1 crore for healthcare initiatives. A further Rs. 100 crore has been earmarked for the maintenance of interior roads.

What has surprised many is the complete absence of any announcements regarding new bridges and flyovers which always took pride of place in earlier budgets. Could this be because several of the ongoing projects, such as the Mint Street flyover, are running behind schedule and therefore the focus is on getting them all completed? Several others, such as the flyover at Burkitt Road, are yet to get off the ground. While this may be a reason, Madras Musings also hopes that the Corporation will use this time period in introspecting on whether flyovers are really the best solution for the city’s traffic. The budget is also silent on another problem in the city – the mosquito menace. Apart from the distribution of free mosquito nets, which is a populist scheme that was begun last year, there is no plan on the anvil.

The budget document also does not discuss the impact on its finances of the proposed expansion of the city’s limits which will increase the area under the Corporation’s jurisdiction by four times. Has the plan been shelved or is it just a policy decision about whose implementation no thought has been given?

The lack of willingness to increase tax rates is also a matter that needs to be debated. If the infrastructural demands are going up all the time, the citizenry must also be expected to pay for it. How else will the civic body be able to not only maintain what is available but also build upon it for the future? However this is not being looked at and, at present, the Corporation aims to be populist by not raising taxes, something which will no doubt haunt it in the years to come. One of the reasons for a lack of willingness to look for increased revenue could be that most large projects have been taken out of the purview of the Corporation and given to special purpose vehicles. The Adyar Poonga, the improvement of rivers, and the proposed Metro are a few such instances. Perhaps the Corporation hopes that all new capital expenditure on a big scale, which is what will be really needed if the city is to see infrastructural improvement, will be funded by such methods and, therefore, need not be a matter of concern. But is that the right way ahead for a civic body?


In this issue

This budget causes concern to some
Is this the only way to remember Tamil scholars?
All atwitter at Chennai Corporation
The majesty of Chepauk
Historic Residences of Chennai - 39
Other stories

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Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
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