There was no ambiguity as to what Finance Minister K M Mani was aiming to achieve when he presented the state budget 2013-14 with fiscal and revenue consolidation written all over it - the lofty goal of inclusive, at the same time sustainable growth.
Making no bones about this, he announced 38 flagship programmes in the budget in double quick time. High up in the pecking order were agriculture, infrastructure, social welfare and health. And to reiterate his resolve to see Kerala grow at a frenetic pace, Mani rolled out a new scheme for enhancement of speed and efficiency of plan execution.
The Finance Minister has proposed to mop up Rs 1138.33 crore by taxing tobacco products, liquor, motor vehicles, luxury goods and white goods among others. He also announced a sop of Rs 50 crore for writing off the interest burden on small farmers who are Nabard loanees. Farm income of individuals has been kept out of the ambit of the tax.
The tax on rice that was reduced to one per cent in the last budget has now been rolled back completely. Though Mani did not increase the pension age of existing government employees which is now fixed at 56, for new recruitees joining government service from April 1, the age of retirement has been made 60.
The decision raised protest from the Opposition as the Finance Minister did not announce it in the House but chose to declare it at a press meet. According to Mani, the state was able to bring down its revenue and fiscal deficit in line with the directive of the 13th Finance Commission and Kerala recorded a GDP of 9.51 per cent.
* Cigarettes, tobacco products except beedi
* Liquor except beer and wine
* Disposable plates, glasses and plastic bags
* Luxury cars, white goods
* Food in houseboats
* Slippers up to Rs 500
* Water beds, ice