Kerala Kaumudi Online
Sunday, 07 March 2021 3.06 PM IST

Kerala budget 2021-22: Highly populist budget


Usually not much importance is given to the budget presented by a government whose term will end shortly.
There is no relevance to apart from the fact it is just the ruling government’s constitutional liability.
But Pinarayi government’s last budget of this tenure has many specialities.
Finance Minister Thomas Isaac who addressed the Assembly with a fat budget book spread before the State a wide canvass before the State.
It was of course a pageant of announcements and new gift packages.

The budget includes proposals that provide relief to people from all walks of life, including those from the lowest strata of society. The Finance Minister had agreed to increase all types of social security pensions in the face of continuing adverse economic conditions.
He spoke of several projects that would provide employment to eight lakh people.

A number of new projects were unveiled which are sufficient to revive the agricultural sector, uplift the industrial sector and uplift the education and health sectors.
There was also no dearth of projects that needs large-scale investment so as to bring about comprehensive changes in education, including in the higher education sector.
On the whole, it can be doubtlessly said that the Finance Minister has brought in a popular budget that is completely free of the anger and frustration generally seen during usual budget days.
The finance minister had drafted the last budget of this LDF government in the midst of the financial crisis created by two successive floods and the Covid epidemic that ensued.
If looked into the budget carefully, it can be seen as a continuation of the former budget in a new form.
In a speech that lasted over three hours, considered the longest in the history of Kerala Assembly, Finance Minister TM Thomas Isaac more or less unveiled the LDF government’s agenda for the next five years, if re-elected to power in May.

Tackling unemployment in Kerala, which has one of the highest rates of joblessness in the country, was one of the primary thrust-areas of Isaac’s budget. He proposed a new Rs 20-crore project to convert buildings with at least 5000 sq ft into work-stations at the block and municipal level. A digital platform, through which companies can directly hire job-seekers for ‘work from home’ or ‘work near home’ models, has been envisaged. Professionals getting jobs through the platform will have access to government incentives like purchasing computers and technical devices on affordable loans through KFC, KSFE and Kerala Bank. The finance minister said the government plans to provide jobs to at least 20 lakh people in the next five years through the digital platform. This includes a large section of skilled women who may have been forced to break their careers for personal reasons and wishing to work again on a ‘work from home’ model.

As part of skill training, the budget also talks about forming a ‘skill mission’ under the Kerala Development Innovation Strategy Council (K-DISC) as part of which 50 lakh educated youth will be imparted training on a war footing.

At the same time, the LDF government’s eye on strengthening welfare schemes and pension packages was clearly seen in the budget. The social welfare pension was hiked by Rs 100 to Rs 1600, honorarium for ASHA workers and elected local body representatives hiked by Rs 1000, welfare fund contribution of NRK returnees hiked by Rs 200, a new social welfare board will be created for employees in the tourism sector and pension of journalists and non-journalists increased by Rs 1000.

Some of the government’s flagship projects like K-FON which assures affordable internet connectivity for all, the Silver Rail semi high-speed railway project and the carbon-neutral coffee project in Wayanad got allocations in the new budget.The budget proposes to make KFCs, KSFEs and lotteries more profitable. The Finance Minister said that KSFE would come up with a 'smart kitchen' scheme for housewives.
The Finance Minister said that KSFE would come up with the 'Smart Kitchen' scheme, which would be widely accepted for acquiring home appliances through loans.

The irony is that we can’t say whether these proposals will remain when the next government present the budget after revising it.

Of course, this budget is in anticipation of the continuation of governance. What the LDF government sees in its favour is its resounding victory in the local body election.
The budget brought out by the Finance Minister is in accordance with that. The fact that even after three hours and twenty minutes, not a single noise was heard from the Opposition side also proves that the Finance Minister’s effort didn’t go in vain.

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