Kerala’s Budget for 2010-11 is an anti-dote for Central government’s policies, the ruling Front affirmed during the general debate on the Budget on Monday. The Budget is not credible

because the government lacks the efficiency to implement the proposals, maintained the Opposition.

The first day of the three-day debate was a sober affair, with both the ruling and Opposition fronts refraining from raising the decibel levels.

Initiating the debate, Deputy Speaker Jose Baby said the Budget addressed the problems of farmers to a great extent.

Centre’s policies

The import policies of the Centre and international agreements had pushed the farmers into a debt trap. The Budget was trying to save them. The allocation for agriculture had been increased from Rs. 419 crore to Rs. 622 crore.

The Deputy Speaker said that the expansion of ‘Rice for Rs. 2’ Scheme to cover 35 lakh families was the State’s reply to the Centre’s move to dismantle the public distribution system. The Union Budget had favoured the corporate sector. The State Budget, on the othe rhand, was trying to help the poor.

Mr. Baby said the Rs. 1000 crore green fund proposed in the budget would address environmental problems and conserve nature. The infrastructure projects proposed were capable of changing the face of Kerala.

He said the demographical changes taking place in the State would be leading to serious problems in the coming year. The percentage of the elderly population was increasing and this would be 20 per cent of the

total population by 2026. The elderly faced problems of health and isolation. The issue was compounded by the fact that more of them were widows.

He said a programme to keep the tribals of Attappady employed should be found as the term of the Attapady Wasteland Comprehensive Environmental Conservation Project under the Attapppady Hill Area

Development Society was coming to an end shortly.

Deficits

Noting that the Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac was countering the Central policies, K.V. Kunhiraman (CPI-M) said the Minister could tell the Centre that the State could not go for zero revenue deficit

because he was managing the finances properly. The government and the people should react to the cut in the share of the State in Central taxes (as per the recommendations of the Finance Commission).

V.D. Satheesan (Congress) said the Budget lacked credibility because the Cabinet had failed to maintain collective responsibility.

No progress could be achieved in infrastructure projects such as the Vizhinjam Port and the Smart City project because of differences in the ruling front and indecision. The Finance Minister was blaming the Centre to hide his failure to carry out Centrally-sponsored schemes. The State could not increase its borrowings though the Centre had raised the ceiling. Yet Dr. Isaac blamed the Centre for not permitting the State to borrow more. The current year’s Budget proposed heavy capital investments. However, investments had grown only marginally (0.1 per cent). So, his projections for the coming year could not be considered as credible.

While the CPI(M) maintained at the national level that the Budget deficits would increase inflationary pressure, Kerala’s Finance Minister was speaking of deficit financing.

Mr. K. Babu (Congress) said the proposals for resource mobilisation in the current year’s Budget had failed. The EMS Housing Scheme could not take off as planned. So, the provision had been made in next year’s Budget also.

Employment schemes

He mocked the proposal for starting an urban employment guarantee scheme noting the State could not fully implement the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme despite being funded by the Centre. The

man days created under the Scheme was only 22 days against the minimum target of 100 days.

Mr. P. Jayarajan (CPI-M) noted that though funding under the Centrally-sponsored schemes was increasing, Kerala could not avail them because the norms were not suitable for Kerala. He said the mainstream media portrayed the Budget in poor light because of their duplicity.

Rajaji Mathew Thomas (CPI) commended that the Budget was focusing on mobilisation of non-tax revenue.

Welcoming the proposal to promote ‘green buildings’, the Member said the State lacked institutions doing research in building technology. This situation should be remedied.

He noted that the State could achieve improvement in production and productivity of vegetables.