Kerala will not implement 5% GST hike: Pinarayi Vijayan

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. File photo.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. File photo. | Photo Credit: PTI

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said the State will not implement the 5% increase in Goods and Services Tax (GST) on essential commodities, including packaged rice and pulses, sold by Kudumbashree units.

The Chief Minister said here on Tuesday that the government would distribute free food kits during Onam, spending ₹425 crore. He said households struggled to clamber out of the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

SilverLine project

Mr. Vijayan said the State required a future-proof and rapid mass transport system. The SilverLine semi-high-speed railway project was the answer. However, the Centre’s sanction was imperative for the project. The Centre appeared reluctant to give sanction. It should correct its course. The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had joined in scuttling the project. “It’s a cruelty to the State,” he said.

Mr. Vijayan said the BJP in Kerala had relentlessly attempted to sabotage national highway (NH) development during the previous Left Democratic Front (LDF) administration. The BJP State president wrote to the Centre in 2018 to withdraw support to the State’s attempt to acquire land for the NH development.

A BJP minister predicted that Nandigram-type anti-land acquisition protests would unfold in Kerala. The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) shifted focus to other States and struck Kerala off its priority list. "Other States benefitted, while Kerala lost," he said.

The Centre had initially demanded that Kerala bear 50% of the land acquisition cost. It had not set such a harsh condition for other States. Kerala agreed to underwrite 25% of the land price for NH widening. It completed the land acquisition in a jiffy, catalysing NH development. "Now the very forces which scuttled the project is claiming credit for the NHs and flyovers coming up in the State," he said.

Mr. Vijayan seemed to refer obliquely to Union Minister for External Affairs S. Jaishankar's recent inspection of an NH flyover at Kazhakuttam. Mr. Vijayan said the previous United Democratic Front (UDF) government had "criminally neglected NH development to cater to certain vested interests."

Mr. Vijayan asked the Centre to refrain from infringing on fiscal federalism. It had slashed the borrowing limit of States and halted GST compensation. In Kerala, Central agencies were targeting the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) to hobble the State's capacity to borrow from the open financial market for infrastructure development.

"The KIIFB repays loans it raises through masala bonds from the revenue it generates. KIIFB's debt is not Kerala's, as the Centre portrays it. Such an interpretation is a violation of Article 293 of the Constitution," he said.

Mr. Vijayan said the State had made considerable strides in the start-up, industrial and tourism sectors. Poor households would soon get free internet via the K-FON project.

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Printable version | Jul 27, 2022 2:40:38 pm |