By D. Dhanuraj
History reckons with you for the most number of Budget presented in the world. You are an experienced craftsman presenting the budget in a mercurial way. Your experience in politics and administration are un parallel and presents a unique opportunity for researchers and practitioners to delve on the language, intend and vision of your Budget Speeches. You have seen generation after generation not only on the floor of the House but also the Political turbulences’ since independence. As a Public Policy Student I have great admiration for your skill sets as a Minister and a Politician.
I am sure this letter may not surprise you on its content side. I wish to share my specific thoughts in certain areas on the upcoming budget of Kerala. These thoughts are based on my readings, interactions, observations and experience working with different clients over the years. I do not have to spend time on explaining Kerala Model of Development to you. Those who studied on the model have stated ‘Second Generation Problems’ that Kerala face today. I will go one step ahead and call it as ‘After the Welfare State’ Paradigm for the problems that we face today. Kerala has notorious balance sheet for the money spent on pensions, salaries and perks. Though I welcome your recent steps for reforming Pension sector, I must confess that many in Kerala hardly have the details of the proposed reforms. I wish you would explain the pension scheme in detail in your budget speech.
We have a very upward looking middle class with a significant size in the population. Somehow, for all these years, the welfare and socialistic pattern of policies implemented in Kerala has led to an approach of ‘One Size Fits All’ kind of attitude. In my opinion, it has resulted serious damage to the growth and development of the State. Most often, it has been the Public policy driven rather than growth led. While there is hue and cry about the subsidies at the national level, we are very much silent about it. Service delivery at a cheaper rate and not indexed to the inflation has pushed Kerala economy to an impoverished state. At the same time, it has been taught that the Government is responsible for everything and especially ensuring the services irrespective of its size, volume and content. I believe the Budget is a golden opportunity to discuss the service delivery in depth and to create awareness that while the Government ensures the services, it cannot be the provider or guaranteer for all sorts of service delivery. Unfortunately, in Kerala there is no target approach. Water or electricity, they were given at the cheaper rate to everyone irrespective of their income background. I wish the upcoming budget will propose a road map how separate strategies for poor and rich will be incorporated in the coming years. Kerala’s fiscal imbalance is largely due to this ‘One size fits for all’. Another important step would be the announcement of Disinvestment in Public Sector Undertakings of Kerala. Not getting into the debate of CAG reports, I am sure most of these companies are either irrelevant or lack expertise in the modern times. Rather than allowing them to suck tax payers, the Government shall set the process to disinvest in those companies. The image of Kerala State Government being the largest entrepreneur in this part of the world do not auger well for the future of the State.
Read more at http://cppr.blogspot.in/2013/02/kerala-budget-2013-open-letter-to-fm.html