Isaac leans on welfarism with an eye on polls

Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac has presented the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government’s final Budget with a seemingly unflinching eye on the impending Assembly elections.

“It is not an election manifesto. But it clearly lays the path to the future. The Budget was politically discussed and finalised,” Dr. Isaac said.

The election year’s fiscal plan seemed firmly moored to welfarism and structured to suit the developmental hopes and aspirational needs of a demographically youthful Kerala eager to overcome the inertia of the COVID-19 pandemic. It seemed to march in lockstep with the LDF's move to harness youth power to win the Assembly polls.

Dr. Isaac seemed to draw hope for a resurgent State from school students' rhymes penned during the contagion's dark days. He speckled his Budget speech with short verses that brimmed with the younger generation's zestful optimism for a better Kerala.

Dr. Isaac described the Budget as “a new edition to the Kerala development model.’’ It laid down a road map to accelerate development by creating a knowledge-based economy centred on innovation.

He quoted Sree Narayana Guru, King Solomon and the Koran to stress the importance of knowledge as a powerful tool for social and economic emancipation. The Budget viewed unemployment as Kerala's development challenge and posited ways and means to surmount the hurdle.

Notably, the Budget promised succour for farmers and outlined sweeping aid and social security benefits for needy families. The LDF hoped to replicate its "local body poll win" in the Assembly elections. It felt a populist Budget was the perfect foil for the "recriminatory" campaign unleashed by the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Dr. Isaac hiked the base price of rubber (₹170) and enhanced the procurement cost of paddy (₹28) and coconut (₹32). He increased welfare pensions to ₹1,600 and promised eight lakh new jobs, emphasising women employment.

Importantly, the government pledged to eradicate "absolute poverty" by direct cash transfer to below poverty line (BPL) families that make up an estimated 11.3% of State's population.

Dr. Isaac has promised the urban needy an expanded employment guarantee scheme, free nutrition, modern housing, piped drinking water, affordable internet connectivity and subsidised laptops for students.

A State-wide network of "fair-price" hotels, a robust public distribution system and responsive market intervention to curb price rise would form the backbone of the State's "Hunger-Free Kerala" pledge. The Budget also promised a compassionate welfare safety net for the elderly and specially-abled.

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Printable version | Mar 9, 2021 1:00:07 AM |

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