The revised Budget for 2016-17, presented by Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac in the Kerala Assembly, seeks to give a big push to infrastructure development using extra-budgetary resources even as attempting to take the ship of State finances to safer shores with a slew of fiscal correction measures and to provide a healing touch to different vulnerable sections.
The Finance Minister has announced Rs. 12,000-crore package to fight economic slowdown by taking up major infrastructure projects. The necessary funds would be raised through the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) issuing bonds, raising term loans from banks and creating funds that have the approval of RBI and SEBI. The government would stand guarantee for the funds thus raised. Appropriate legislative changes would be brought about and governance mechanisms created to facilitate this.
The taxation proposals in the budget aim to raise Rs. 805 crores, mainly by imposition of 5 per cent tax each on packaged wheat products, packaged basmati rice and coconut oil, 2 per cent tax on textiles, a 14.5 per cent 'fat tax' on food articles such as burgers, pizzas and donuts, sandwiches and pasta sold through branded restaurants and 20 per cent tax on disposable tumblers made of plastic. The Finance Minister has also announced increase in various registration fees and several measures to tone up tax administration. Dr. Isaac anticipates a year end deficit of Rs. 746.69 crore.
On the welfare side, the Finance Minister announced that all social welfare pensions would stand enhanced to Rs. 1,000 beginning this month and said that the government would formulate a comprehensive health insurance scheme with the long-term goal of making treatment of such major ailments as cancer, cardiac diseases, stroke and kidney diseases completely free for the poorest section of the population. The State government would also bring forward a comprehensive legislation to offer protection to migrant workers, he added.
In the productive sector, there would be massive deployment of resources to ensure value addition in agriculture through the establishment a string of agro-parks at an estimated outlay of Rs. 500 crore, acquisition of around Rs. 5,100 crore over five years at an estimated outlays of Rs. 5,100 crore to set up multipurpose industrial zones, adoption of soil conservation as a key activity under MGNREGA, greater mechanisation of the coir industry, creation of Kochi-Palakkad industrial corridor and a Rs. 1,325-crore initiative to promote the IT industry.
In the energy sector, the government's attempt would be to lean more on solar energy. A beginning in this direction would be made this year by launching a scheme to install solar panels atop homes to generate 1,000 MW power. A 'green tax'would be imposed on four wheelers aged more than 15 years.
The government, Dr. Isaac said, would create a separate department for women and make gender budgeting and gender budgeting the norm. All transgenders aged above 60 years would be given pension and girl friendly toilets would be constructed in all government schools. Kerala, he said, would launch a massive public campaign on November 1 to turn Kerala the cleanest State in the country.