The Tripura government has instructed government offices to slash power and telephone bills by 10 per cent and use air conditioners only after permission as part of the cost-cutting measures due to coronavirus pandemic.
A meeting of the council of ministers here on Friday, also decided to assess and regulate the use of television and cable connections in the offices. Official sources said the austerity measures will come into effect from immediate effect. Though there is no coronavirus case in the state, the measures seems directed to deal with the expected economic challenges due to the lockdown necessitated by spread of the deadly virus.
Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb had on Thursday declared the state coronavirus-free after its second COVID-19 patient tested negative. In an effort to cut down regular expenses in the government offices and other facilities, employees were told to focus on e-mail communications to avoid use of paper, an official statement on the meeting said on Saturday.
As per the cabinet decisions, an approval from the Chief Minister’s Office will be required from now on for organising any fair, exhibition and public event. “No government fund can be used for land acquisition any more till the economic situation improves. The state government would heavily depend on e-markets for its purchases,” it added. “All departments, PSUs, autonomous organisations and cooperative societies were strictly instructed to reduce power and telephone bills by 10 percent,” the statement said.
The cabinet observed that the 15th Finance Commission had expressed concern over per capita expenditure in terms of salary, pension and interest rates of few states including Tripura. It said the series of austerity measures have been taken to reduce its expenditure and focus on optimum utilisation of the central schemes to ease burden on the state exchequer in view of the economioc crisis triggered by outbrak of the virus.
All government office expenses and other contingent budget expenditure would have to be reduced by a minimum of 15 percent, the statement added. All departments were also asked to make “optimum utilisation” of contingent budgets of different centrally-sponsored welfare schemes so that no pressure comes on the state government.
As additional measures,”use of air conditioners in government offices would be allowed only after permission from the State Economy Board”, the statement said. The board is part of the state’s Finance department. A survey will be held on all Public Sector Undertakings (PSU) and ‘necessary steps’ will be taken to reduce losses in stressed PSUs to ease the financial burden on the government, the statement said.