‘If Mani was against pension age unification, he could have repealed it'

The budget presented by Finance Minister K.M. Mani on Monday smacks of financial conservatism with a political statement meant at lashing the previous LDF government, former Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac has said.

Participating in a discussion on the State budget organised under the joint aegis of The Hindu, The Hindu-Business Line, Asianet News, and the Gulati Institute of Finance and Taxation Studies here, Dr. Isaac said the Finance Minister could have shed the conventional fiscal policy and become more adventurous by spending substantive sums for developing infrastructure facilities.

During the beginning of the budget speech, he sensed a game plan which became evident by the end.

If the government was against the concept of unifying retirement age of employees, it could have repealed the decision without raising the retirement age. The decision will have far-reaching consequences. The government had not created super-numerary posts or reported the vacancies to the Public Service Commission, he said.

C.P. John, Member, State Planning Board

The budget will bring in fundamental changes in the State. Skill development has been given priority.

Keeping in line with the UDF policy, the budget has duly balanced development and care.

The welfare measures announced for various sections, including the Rs.40 crore earmarked for the differently abled are truly innovative. The Kochi Metro Rail and the Mono Rail projects are set to become a reality like other projects, he said.

Ajith Kumar, Secretary, Taxes

A rationalisation of tax structure was imperative as GST was set to be implemented soon. Unification of tax rate with that of the neighbouring States was also needed, Mr. Kumar said.

K.P. Kannan, Professor, Centre for Development Studies (CDS)

The government can avoid borrowing by tightening the tax regime. The potential had not been tapped so far. Only two-thirds of the sales tax was being collected now. Optimum collection would help to garner between Rs.7,000 crore and Rs.10,000 crore, he said. Regarding the proposals for the higher education sector, Dr. Kannan said rather than going for new universities, the thrust should be on strengthening the existing ones. The budget had not mentioned about the implications of the Food Security Act and the also proposal for FDI in the retail sector, he said.

K.N. Harilal, former member, State Planning Board

The budget is silent on several core areas like stability of prices and insurance. Agriculture has become an uncertain venture. Higher education has got the priority and the proposed changes are welcome.

K.J. Joseph, Professor, CDS

The initiatives proposed in the agriculture sector, like hi-tech applications in vegetable cultivation signal a positive trend. The projects proposed to be launched in cooperation with the Coconut Development Board should be emulated in the case of other cash crops too. This was in view of the predictions of UNCTAD that Kerala's cash crops would have a bright market in the world in future, Prof: Joseph said.

G. Vijayaraghavan, Member, State Planning Board

The budget is positive. There is going to be a definite impact on the agriculture sector and the decision to give value addition to rice and coconut. The move for Dignity of labour will go up once the Bio-rice and Bio-coconut parks come up. Emphasis have been given to higher education and visible changes can be seen in the next two to three years. The challenge is going to be how to implement – a strong team in a mission mode is needed for it.

E.M. Najeeb: President, Confederation of Tourism Industry Kerala

The budget is well-planned for the tourism sector. The allocations had gone up by 70 per cent and the indirect allocations had touched Rs.150 crore. Air strips for all districts and sea planes will promote tourism. The 8 to 10 per cent taxation mooted by the industry had not all been considered by the Finance Minister. Mice tourism has not got the needed push.

S.N. Raghuchandran Nair, general secretary, CREDAI, Kerala

The construction industry has received only brickbats and not got any incentives. Though this was the only industry which generated employment, it was being neglected by both fronts. The increase in the VAT rates on crusher metal cost would have a direct impact on the industry, Mr. Nair said.

V.K. Mathews, Chairman, CII State Council

It is a meaningful and purposeful budget. Road transport has become virtually impossible in the State and hence the allocation made for the metro and high speed rail corridor in the budget is welcome. These modes of transport need to be promoted. Construction is a key sector and sadly the State and the Union government had not given priority.

Jose Jacob, Director, National Savings

Those who had borrowed money had not been able to repay it. Debt liability is second in the State after West Bengal.

R. Mohan, Researcher:

The government has not been able to intervene in the service sector. The financial ‘crisis' being raised by the government is not actually there.

Sonia George, general secretary, SEWA union

The budget is silent on the unorganised sector and the common man. It remains to be seen how the proposals for having various micro finance schemes by various groups will come out in the future.

Keywords: Kerala budget

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