Kerala Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac announced a comprehensive road renovation project costing Rs. 40,000 crore in the budget for 2011-12 presented to the Assembly on Thursday.
The project is to be implemented over 10 years and the Minister has set apart Rs. 1,000 crore as government contribution. The balance is to be raised by the Roads and Bridges Corporation and the Road Fund Board as loans. The public sector undertakings would be restructured to make them credit worthy.
The Minister said that the two agencies would take up road works to the tune of Rs. 5,000 crore this year under the project. This would include a Rs. 1,920 crore package for development of 320 km of State highways and Rs. 1,000 crore package for bypasses. Besides, 36 district roads would be taken up for two laning at a cost of Rs. 765 crore. In addition, Rs. 894 crore would be spent for modernisation of roads in the five cities of the State (Rs. 202 crore for Ernakulam, Rs. 120 crore for Kollam, Rs. 142 crore for Thrissur, Rs. 180 crore for Kozhikode and Rs. 250 crore for Thiruvananthapuram.).
Administrative sanction had been given to certain portions of the highland high way. As a part of the Comprehensive Road Renovation Project, sanction was accorded for a 129 km road stretch from Parassala to Alimukku in Kollam at Rs. 253 crore. The Roads and Bridges Corporation had submitted a master plan for a Coastal Highway, and 42 km stretch of road had been renovated. Additionally, renovation of the 279 km stretch from Poovar in Thiruvananthapuram district to Ponnani in Malappuram district would be taken up at a cost of Rs. 420 crore. Sanction was accorded for the bridge across Azhikkodu–Munambam. Roads and Bridges Corporation has been entrusted for four laning of the stretch from Ponnani to Elathur.
Dr. Isaac said that in addition to the package mentioned earlier, Rs. 588 crore would be allotted to the Public Works Department under the Annual Plan. The works to be taken up would include phase 2 of the Kerala State Transport Project, Kozhikode bypass and bridges and link roads in different parts of the State.
Special opening lines
The Finance Minister began his budget speech with lines specially composed by Jnanpith Award winner O.N.V. Kurup. Kerala economy, he said, grew by around nine per cent during the past five years. Kerala would be the fastest growing State in the country within two to three years.
While revenue expenditure doubled over the last five years, the State had succeed in keeping the deficit low. Fiscal deficit had also decreased significantly.
The government was not on overdraft for a single day during the last three years. No ways and means advances had been availed from the Reserve Bank so far during the current year, though almost all ways and means restrictions had been lifted.
The State’s tax income, which was Rs. 7,000 crore in 2005-06, was expected to touch Rs. 16,000 crore in 2010-11. The rate of increase of the State’s debt had come down, though total debts went up from Rs. 45,929 crore in 2005-06 to Rs. 78,327 crore this year.
He complained that the Centre was altering financial parameters preventing it from borrowing more money for the State’s development. "I am unable to understand as to why borrowing for capital expenditure should be curtailed even when the State agrees to prepare a time bound plan of action to reduce the revenue deficit."