Kerala Kaumudi Online
Wednesday, 16 June 2021 6.10 AM IST

Maiden budget: Budget with human face


The usual practice is to include poetry in the budget as well as to raise taxes. No one seemed to enjoy poetry when taxes rose. The revised budget for 2021-22 presented by state finance minister KN Balagopal has no poetry and no tax hike. The relief it brings to the people who have been left stranded by Covid's second coming is not small. The comprehensive budget for the same period was presented in January by former finance minister Dr. TM Thomas Isaac. Despite being its continuation, the revised budget is different. The big difference externally is that the budget speech was completed in just an hour, touching on only the most relevant things. Another is that the revised budget made fundamental changes in the context of Covid's second wave. The health sector itself has been the main focus of the budget as the second wave of Covid has remained acute and concerns about a third coming have been raised.

Rs 20,000 crore has been sanctioned as the second Covid package. This includes Rs 2,800 crore for health emergencies, Rs 8,900 crore for loans and interest subsidies and Rs 8,900 crore for direct disbursement of livelihood during the Covid period. During the Covid period, the affairs of daily wagers, the shopkeepers, auto drivers and the lottery sellers are in dire straits. No other project announcement can benefit as much as they get paid directly. The readiness of the Finance Minister to do so has given this budget a new human face. What good is it for those who are now living in poverty to be told that the economic status of all will rise after the country has developed? The decision to pay directly to the needy underscores the fact that Pinarayi Vijayan became the first Chief Minister in history to achieve continuity, in addition to the fact that welfare pensions and other benefits were paid on time.

In his budget speech, FM pointed out that Kerala faces two major challenges. The first challenge is how to generate economic growth by raising capital investment which below the national average. Following in the footsteps of his predecessor, the new minister said he would try to address this through investment through KIIFB.

The second challenge is high unemployment and scarcity of employment as per qualification. It is said that this problem will be solved by creating centres of excellence that will enhance the quality of higher education and connect it with the information technology sector. Employment opportunities won't increase with the government alone. Those who excel are now turning to jobs of their own. More employment will be created only if such ventures and the private sector are given maximum encouragement. There are many who have left Kerala and are leading in various fields in the world. The government should also create the conditions to bring back at least some of these and open new areas. Unemployment can be tackled to a large extent. It is hoped that the Finance Minister will find a place for this in the next budget.

The Finance Minister pointed out that the Centre's vaccine policy and the delay in sanctioning GST compensation have put the state in further crisis. It is a fact that the non-payment of GST compensation on time has put not only Kerala but many other states in crisis.

The allocation of Rs 1000 crore for free vaccination and Rs 500 crore for purchase of ancillary equipment is a testament to the fact that the government is not shirking its primary responsibility for the health of its citizens. It is said the govt will take steps to provide Rs 1,000 crore in bank loans to Kudumbasree and 'Ayalkoottam' groups, of which loans of up to Rs 5 lakh will be made available at an interest rate of 4 per cent. An amount of Rs 100 crore has been set apart in the budget for interest relief on such loan schemes.

The finance minister also announced Rs 11,000 crore development projects for the coastal disaster relief sector would be implemented in four years.

Although the devastated agricultural sector has been considered, the amount set aside for its rehabilitation is quite inadequate.

The minister has also made a number of good deeds, including a loan of Rs 1,000 crore for low-interest loans to expatriates, laptops for two lakh students, low-interest loans of Rs 400 crore to the tourism sector, Rs 10 crore for infrastructure development of Sreenarayana Guru Open University and Rs 50 crore to give arrears to rubber farmers. I hope this budget, which focuses on development and public welfare in general, is a good start to take the state to new heights.

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