Staff Reporter

Civic body holds special council meeting

Committee to hold discussion with State GovernmentTalks to decide priority of projectsCouncillors apprehensive of loan conditions

KOCHI: The Kochi Corporation council will appoint a committee to look into the conditions laid down by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for releasing the loan of Rs.185 crores to the civic body for urban infrastructure projects.

The decision was taken at a special council meeting held on Tuesday to discuss the loan conditions. The Committee will also hold discussions with the State Government regarding the priority of projects and issues related to the availing of the loan, Mayor Mercy Williams informed the council.

The special council meeting could not arrive at a decision regarding the ADB aid as the councillors raised several apprehensions. Initiating the discussion, N. Anilkumar of the CPI (M) pointed out that the ADB has not relented regarding some of the objectionable loan conditions. The Bank, while creating the impression that it was abolishing consultancy fee, introduced several new financial clauses, he said. Mr. Anilkumar also suggested that opinion of the State leadership of political parties should be sought for taking a decision on the loan.

E.M. Sunilkumar, Town Planning Standing Committee chairman, said that no proposals that would overburden the people should be accepted, especially in sectors like drinking water, drainage and solid waste management. If the financial aid is accepted as per the present conditions laid down by the Bank, it would lead to steep increase in water and service charges.

A.B. Sabu, UDF council party leader, was in favour of accepting the ADB aid and introducing user fee wherever required. "Kochi needs foreign capital for its development. No one needs to be afraid of the ADB.

The Corporation should tax the financially well-off sections of society and spare the poor. User fee should be introduced and the economically weaker sections should be exempted from it," he said.

The popular perception that those administrators who impose minimum tax are the good ones should change. The move to reduce the number of public taps need not be opposed if the Government could make alternative arrangements for providing drinking water. While accepting the ADB aid, the democratic system and the rights of the Corporation should be protected, Mr. Sabu said.

C.K. Manisankar, Deputy Mayor, said that the ADB aid could be accepted if the Bank accepts the conditions laid down by the Corporation. Any move of the Bank and the State Government to enforce their conditions and directives would not be accepted.

The Government should also ensure that the Plan fund would not be reduced on account of repayment of the loan amount, he said.

K.G. Dineshan and V.J. Hyscinth cautioned the council on the increased tax burden the acceptance of the loan conditions laid down by the Bank would bring in. K.J. Sohan wanted a detailed report on the loan conditions to be placed before the council.

He also wanted the council to find out how the funds available under the National Urban Renewal Mission could be utilised for the development of the city.