Saritha S Balan | The NEWS Minute | Friday, February 02, 2018

The first union budget after the GST rollout has disappointed experts and politicians in the state.

While they admit the budget is a calculated one, the general feeling is that the budget is ambiguous. Since there is no differentiation between plan and non-plan fund, they say, it is not clear how much money is earmarked for which project and the budget has nothing which directly benefits the common man.

“There are only concepts, not allocations which should get priority in the budget. Only allocation of note is regarding the fisheries and dairies for which Rs 1,000 crores has been set aside. There is complete silence on the ambitious flagship programmes like MNREGA, on the much-hyped demonetisation and GST. This is not the sign of a good government or good governance,” said CP John, former member of the State Planning Board who is also a leader of CMP.

John says, “We can’t blame that there is no specific announcement for Kerala as there is no specific announcements for any other state. It is not location specific and I support that idea. But since plan and non-plan fund divide is not done, it can’t be said what is the allocation for each sector and it is not easy for the common man to understand. If that distinction had been made, it could be understood how much fund is set aside for infrastructure and how much for development. And a government which has hardly been a year in office, has made several futuristic announcements which are unrealistic.”

John criticised the budget saying that it is an attempt to paint a positive image of the country outside and before the international rating agencies.

According to Centre for Public Policy Research Chairman D Dhanuraj- “This is a budget that totally focuses on rural India.  It is balanced and calibrated budget, aimed at the elections. There are a number of interesting announcements with regard to health and rural sector. While it will attract many to the government, it remains to be seen how these will be implemented. That’s going to be a challenge. With this budget, the Centre has conveyed clearly that its focus is on rural sector and the women, that’s the vote bank they are looking for.”

“When it comes to Kerala, there is nothing much that is promising to the state. Kerala’s needs are entirely different, it’s not about the fund allocation. It is infrastructure that Kerala needs to develop and I don’t think there have been any major announcements on that front. The announcement of one medical college in every three constituencies is interesting, which means Kerala should get 6 of them. But then how much of it will translate into reality?” he asks.

In the budget, women’s contribution has been reduced to 8.33% towards PF in the first three years for new EPF accounts. Dhanuraj opines that this announcement could be favourable for Kerala, since the state has a considerable amount of women in the workforce. Kerala is doing well in the health and education sector. What we wanted was infrastructural development.

NK Premchandran, Kollam MP, says, “In general, the budget has failed to fulfil the expectations of the middle class. It has not addressed concerns raised by the economic survey like the crisis in agriculture, stock market fluctuations and crude oil price rice. This is nothing but an attempt made to create a pro-farmer policy façade among the public. There has been no innovative programmes made. Revenue has also gone up from income tax but no returns have been given to the public. There should have been a relaxation for personal income tax. This is a budget drafted in favour of the corporate world.”

On whether Kerala’s concerns have been adequately addressed in the budget, the MP says, “Kerala is not in their agenda at all. And it is not surprising as there are political motives behind it. I can only speak in detail after I go through the details of the budget.”

This news was published in The NEWS Minute on February 2, 2018; Click here to read: Kerala politicians miffed with Budget, say it is unrealistic and favouring corporates

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