Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac presented the 68th state Budget in the Assembly, amid protests from the Opposition alleging the budget document has been compromised. This was the first full Budget of the Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government that came to power in May, 2016.
Despite facing a revenue squeeze in the past three months due to demonetisation, Isaac kept his pledge to maintain the government focus on social welfare measures. The Budget has given top priority to women and allocated Rs 1,260-crore, exclusively, for bettering the prospects of women in the state. The budget has also prioritised public health and education.
The Finance minister, however, refrained from proposing new taxes in view of the fact that the Goods and Services Tax is due for implementation from July 1.
He declared a scheme of free internet connectivity for the poor. Called K-Phone, the scheme will be implemented by laying an optical fibre network parallel to the distribution network of Kerala State Electricity Board.
Though the Economic Review tabled in the Assembly yesterday had underlined the need to overcome fiscal mismanagement and stagnation and to urgently work out strategies to deal with the adverse conditions affecting them to revive the growth, the Budget did not offer much on how the government is going to work out strategies towards easing the economic situation.
Despite this drawback, the Budget is been seen as “comparatively promising”.
The day, however, was marred by the controversy over the aleeged Budget document leak. The Assembly witnessed some high-level drama as Opposition members boycotted the session over the alleged leak of the key document on the social media. Some of the members entered the well of the House even as the finance minister was in the middle of his speech.
Meanwhile, the government has agreed to order a probe into the allegation that the Budget document was compromised. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan called it an “unprecedented situation”, while Speaker P. Sreeramakrishnan termed it a serious issue has it been leaked.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala demanded Issac's resignation alleging it was leaked from the latter's office. The commotion ended with the Opposition staging a walkout even as Isaac continued with the budget presentation.
Major highlights from the Budget:
- Rs 25,000 crore set aside for infrastructure projects in 2017-18
- Free treatment for life-style diseases. Primary health sector to get Rs 2,000 crore. These health centres to provide free diabetes and cholesterol drugs
- Creation of 2,500 new posts of teachers in the state
- State schools to get 45,000 more smart classrooms
- Setting up autism parks in all districts of the state
- Rs 45 crore allocation for coconut farming, Rs 10 crore for pepper and cardamom
- Special project for rice cultivation in Kuttanad and Palakkad
- Provisions for free internet for 20 lakh economically-backward families
- 10,000 young artists to be given Rs 10,000 per month each in the state
- Rs 68 crore announced for protection of women. Gender budgeting to be revised