CPPR Chairman Dr D Dhanuraj comments in a news article published in The New Indian Express on expectations for Kochi from Kerala Governments budget. He says “As Kochi is contributing 50 per cent of the state’s overall revenue, the budget should ensure plans to activate the commercial activities in the city. Along with budget allocations, the government should initiate fundamental policy changes. Ease of doing business measures should be taken forward for revival.”
With another state budget presentation taking place on Friday, Kochi, the commercial capital of the state, is high on expectations. While many of the much-awaited projects have been set in motion over the last few years, a huge number of projects still remain on paper. TNIE speaks to experts on what Kochi aims and deserves to avail from the budget this year, while exploring the status of past promises.
Though many flagship projects for Kochi have featured in previous budgets and received substantial allocation, experts feel that it is high time the state ensured seamless implementation of the announced projects. “Despite being public finance documents, the successive governments have made budgets into mere declarations.
We need to prioritise spending, finalise agencies involved in implementation and check the efficiency of systems. Apart from being swept away by hollow promises, we never held in-depth discussions on revenue streams and identifying returns. Instead of a spree of announcements, the budget should act as an indicator of an efficient spending of our resources,” said D Dhanuraj, chairman, Centre for Public Policy and Research.
With many industries ailing from the impact of Covid-induced lockdown, the sector is expecting an all-encompassing approach from the government. “Industries have been deeply affected with the lockdown and demand active plans for revival. Though the state government’s Ascend 2020 investor’s meet has been announced, the formation of a maritime cluster at Willingdon Island is yet to materialise. It should be included in the budget by charting plans for maritime activities. Instead of giving temporary exemptions, the government should ensure policy changes to expand the trade and commerce activities,” said K Harikumar, president, Cochin Chamber of Commerce. Echoing the same opinion, Dhanuraj said, “As Kochi is contributing 50 per cent of the state’s overall revenue, the budget should ensure plans to activate the commercial activities in the city. Along with budget allocations, the government should initiate fundamental policy changes. Ease of doing business measures should be taken forward for revival.”
While Covid has brought in transformative changes in the IT sector, especially with work from home being the new norm, Prathidhwani Kochi, the welfare organisation of IT employees, is welcoming the government’s K-Fon project and demanding measures to protect employees in the new dynamic environment. “As Covid changed the park-based structure of IT companies, many employees are struggling to get good fibre network connectivity. Though K-Fon is expected to address the issue to a great extent, the government should fast-track its implementation. Along with this, the state should also ensure measures to protect employees from massive lay-off shappening in the sector,” said Ashik C Sreenivasan, secretary, Prathidhwani Kochi.
With Covid affecting bus transport in the city, bus owners feel that substantial support is required for the sector. “Buses remain the basic transport system catering to the needs of the common man. Financial support in the form of loans or other means should be provided to private bus owners. Many of our members have already stopped services owing to massive loss due during the lockdown days. The government should exempt us from the taxes till March,2021 and provide welfare schemes for our employees,” said K B Suneer, general secretary, Private Bus Operators Association.
While the Cochin Chamber of Commerce has demanded expansion of the Kochi Corporation limits to give a focused approach for development, many point out where we are missing out in terms of infrastructure. “Waste management project at Brahmapuram has been getting delayed for a long time. It should be the priority project for Kochi’s future. Along with addressing biodegradable and plastic waste management, sewage treatment should also be included in the overall plan.
While developing major canals under Urban Regeneration and Water Transport System Project (IURWTS), we must also make a way to dredge the drainages and revive the various link canals across the city. This will solve the waterlogging and mosquito breeding problems. Besides, we need to create pedestrian-friendly walkways across the city and improve heritage spaces for tourists. Policy level changes should be ensured to bring back rainwater harvesting while constructing new buildings,” said. S Gopakumar, president of Better Kochi Response Group (BKRG)
Players from the travel and tourism sector are expecting that their loans will be written off. They also expect financial benefits from the budget. “Many have invested in homestays and other tourism projects in the last few years. Most of them have completed the projects by taking bank loans. With Covid’s impact starting from December 2019, the majority hasn’t been able to repay their EMIs and tax dues. As industry is gradually getting back to normal, the government should boost the sector by giving exemptions and financial support for struggling stakeholders,” said T K Fasial, DTPC Tourism facilitator Ernakulam
This news article was published in The New Indian Express on January 15, 2021. Click here to read