Party secretariat says deficit figures are understated

The Budget for 2014-15, presented by Finance Minister K.M. Mani in the Assembly on Friday, will place the heaviest burden on the people of Kerala, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) State secretariat has said.

In a statement here, the CPI(M) leadership said that at Rs.1,550 crore, the burden sought to be placed on the people was unprecedented in its scale. The government, which had failed to collect taxes already in force, was trying to make up for it by imposing heavier imposts on the people. The tax collection during the current year has fallen short of target by Rs.4,132 crore, due mainly to subversion of the efficient tax collection mechanism put in place by the last LDF government, the statement added.

The CPI(M) secretariat said the Budget would trigger price spirals in all segments of the economy, particularly in the construction sector. The cost of travel was also set to shoot up. The Finance Minister’s attempt was to create illusions about agricultural revival by presenting a long list of hi-tech projects, it said.

The CPI(M) leadership also accused the government of having tried to mislead the people by understating the deficit figures. The Finance Minister had estimated a deficit of Rs.3,406 crore during 2012-13, but, according to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the year had ended with a huge deficit of Rs.9,351 crore. The same would be the State’s experience this year as well. The government owed contractors as much as Rs.1,600 crore. With such a huge arrear, the contractors were reluctant to take up new work. Given the sharp increase in prices, even the nominal hike in welfare pensions proposed in the Budget would have no real effect, the CPI(M) secretariat said.

Other reactions

In another statement, RSP State secretary A.A. Aziz also came down heavily on the Budget terming it ‘anti-people’. The Budget, he said, had totally ignored traditional industries and would trigger a price spiral across sectors. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) State vice-president Uzhavoor Vijayan criticised the Budget as one that played with figures with little to cheer for the commoner.

While the Confederation of Kerala Tourism Industry president E.M. Najeeb lauded the Finance Minister for having earmarked Rs.206.65 crore for tourism development and for reducing the luxury tax on hotels, Kerala Hotel and Restaurant Association State president G. Sudhish Kumar and general secretary Jose Mohan said the Budget was a major disappointment for small and medium hotels. With the hike in tax on edible oils and the government’s refusal to lower the 14.5 per cent tax on cooking gas, several small and medium hotels were faced with the prospect of closure, they said.

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