Three industrial corridors, a hike in welfare pension, free ration and several programmes for ailing tourism sector were some of the measures announced by Kerala finance minister Thomas Issac in the state budget for 2021-22 on Friday.
Presenting the last budget of the Pinarayi Vijayan government, the state is set to go to polls in the next few months, he said money won’t be a constraint for welfare measures and some of the new measures will inject fresh blood into the state’s consumerist economy reeling under the impact of Covid-19. The minister said free food kits being distributed in the wake of the pandemic will continue for some more time and 50 lakh families will get additional rice for ₹15 and 10 a kg, respectively.
Though the minister announced three industrial corridors worth ₹5,000 crore he did not specify how funds will be met for this. In the budget speech, he also criticised the Centre’s move to put severe restrictions on states for borrowing.
All welfare pensions will be hiked from ₹1,500 to ₹1,600 and the elderly will get free medicines at their doorsteps without any hassle, he said. Similarly, he introduced a ‘smart kitchen’ scheme in which women will be given loan to refurbish their kitchen with low interest rate in instalment schemes. The government-run bodies like Kerala Financial Corporation, Kerala State Financial Enterprises and Kerala Bank will disburse loans for this, he said
The government has also decided to withdraw one per cent flood cess on goods and transactions imposed two years ago. Many trade bodies and others have been demanding this for quite some time. Many sops were also announced for startup companies. In government tenders they will be given preference and the government will bear at least 50 per cent loss of the firms to encourage them for innovations, the minister said.
A package was announced for the ailing hospitality sector and interest-free loans will be disbursed to operators. Pension for those expats who have returned to the state was hiked to ₹3,000 a month.
The minister said two consecutive floods and pandemic have left a big hole in the state’s economy but the government will ensure nobody will go hungry in the state. He said the state suffered ₹1.56 trillion revenue loss due to the pandemic and natural calamities.
The Congress said the budget lacked substance.
“It is a futile exercise eying the election. There is no dearth of announcements but there is no fund. In the ease of doing business, the state is now ranked at 28th position,” said opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala.