Despite the lingering uncertainty over revenue collection and resumption of trade and commercial activities, the Kerala Finance Bill may offer tax sops to bail the economy from the crisis triggered by COVID-19.
The prime concession may be a cut in property tax, which is expected to give a major fillip to the real estate sector that has virtually become moribund following the economic slowdown and the virus spread.
A substantial sum may be apportioned for distributing free Onam kits and rice to the indigent sections. The accent is on easing the woes of the common man reeling under grave crisis and reviving the economy through supportive steps using the available resources, Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac told The Hindu .
The government had expended about ₹900 crore for distributing kits following the imposition of lockdown and now the cost for distribution of kits comprising essentials is expected to touch ₹1,000 crore.
A lion’s share of the resource would be channelised for health care, mainly for COVID-19 containment. Considering a spike in cases, the accent would be on setting up First Line COVID Treatment Centres (FLCTC) and bolstering the existing facilities to manage exigencies.
Since local bodies are functioning as the pivot of COVID-19 containment, they have been given the freedom to use the Plan funds for setting up treatment and quarantine centres.
“Paucity of funds would not impede local governments from taking up such challenges, especially when the State is fighting a pandemic. The virus spread is feared to mount the pressure on ventilators and hospital beds and the current focus is on improving such amenities,” he said.
COVID-19 has altered the spending priorities and needs, but the unpredictability in revenue collection and resumption of normal life, trade and business activities are all constraining the government from going liberal.
Though the country is passing through Unlock 2.0, lockdown curbs still cover a major part of the State. Hence, the government has virtually no leeway to be too liberal.
“Much depends on the scenario that is set to unfold in the weeks ahead. A permissive milieu that has developed following a surge in agitations across the State has stripped the fear about the virus among the people who now believe that things have become normal. This perception needs to be changed immediately,” he said.