The budget presented on Thursday by Finance Minister Thomas Isaac is a big disappointment as it has not given solace to the flood-affected millions of our state. People expected focussed projects for elevating their problems from the first post-disaster budget. Instead, Isaac narrated so many (more than two dozens) projects from the elevated railway to the unsuccessful Kerala Bank.
But, the minister did not forget to impose a 1 per cent disaster-cess, cleverly bagging more than Rs 1,000 crore. Even this additional income has not been targeted towards the flood-affected households. He could have written off the education loans of the poor students who lost their parents in the floods and waived off the agricultural loans of the worst-affected farmers.
A party that has been lamenting about the agrarian crisis all over the country has forgotten the double-burdened peasantry of the flood-affected districts of the state.
At the same time, the finance minister is harping on the same chord with his favourite KIIFB. He still believes KIIFB is still the panacea for all the ailments of the state.
He has listed out projects worth Rs 30,000 crore to be undertaken by KIIFB without specifically listing out the resources for it. The minister himself admits that this year a Rs 10,000-crore bill will be on his table from the contractors engaged in KIIFB projects.
The economic review tabled on Wednesday rightly pointed out the rate of growth of revenue income has reduced by nearly 50 per cent, compared to 2015-16. But, FM is circumventing the public finance coffers to gather funds for KIIFB.
He should keep in mind that if the Centre and the RBI insist that huge government guarantees (as in the case of KIIFB) will be considered the physical burden of the state finance, the fiscal deficit will shoot up and may touch the dangerous 7 per cent mark of the GDP, thereby inviting a fiscal disaster for the state.
(The writer is a former member of the Planning Board)