By K Kunhikrishnan
The 68th Kerala Budget presented by the Kerala Finance Minister with the expected rhetoric of criticism of the Central Government’s demonetization and the financial policies, leaves more questions than answers. There are many positive statements and schemes, but riddled with practical issues of implementation. The Economic Survey (2015-2016) has stated that Kerala has outstanding debt liabilities of INR 157370.33 crores. Out of the 122 Public Sector Undertakings in the State only 107 are working and only 50 of them are profit making. The state spends INR 31909 crores for payment of salaries, INR 18,174 crores for Pension and INR 13631 crores towards interests. Revenue deficit in the Budget is placed at INR 16043.14. Kerala is running on a money order economy and the state of affairs in countries from where Keralites are working is not continuing to be conducive for the flow of money. The panacea that the Finance Minister prescribes for infrastructure development is investment from Non-resident Keralites. Kerala State Infrastructure Board (KIIFB) is expected to attract whopping sums, like INR 50,000 crores in five years for roads. Kerala State Financial Enterprises(KSFE) will also start chit funds for attracting investments up to Rs. 15,000 crores. This projection is to be seen in perspective as inflow of funds is not on increase and of the industrial climate in the state, which admittedly is not the best for new investments. The militancy of trade unionism, irrespective of any political party, has been a great deterrent.
The Budget projects various ‘Missions’ in corporate style and they are laudable if executed properly will definitely pave way for a cleaner, and socially safer and economically better state. While schemes have been announced with lofty ideals, a social auditing mechanism is not inbuilt to assess actual performance.