THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In a post-budget chat with TNIE, Finance Minister TM Thomas Isaac said he expected a liberal approach from the Centre in the new fiscal despite him venting his opposition to the ruling BJP’s policies, especially his anti-CAA remarks, in the budget speech. Isaac also spoke about why some major announcements in his previous budgets did not take off. Excerpts:
Q: You have made an unprecedented and aggressive attack on the ‘vindictive’ Centre. Won’t it risk the Centre’s support and assistance on the financial front, especially since the state’s share in central taxes is down by around Rs 4,300 crore in the new fiscal?
A: Though the tax share was cut, the Centre has agreed to release a revenue deficit grant of Rs 15,000 crore in the new fiscal. So, there won’t be a fiscal crisis, like the one we are facing this year.
Q: What would be the borrowing limit for the state in the new fiscal? Do you expect a similar cut again?
A: Since 2017, the Centre has been slashing the state’s borrowing limit citing the treasury deposits. Even if the borrowing limit is cut, we will not face a similar crisis in the new fiscal, thanks to the revenue deficit grant. But I expect a liberal approach from the Centre in this regard. If it happens, the state economy will gain immensely.
Q: What happened to the total insurance programme announced in the past two budgets? A major component in it, the MEDISEP insurance programme for government employees and pensioners, is still a non-starter.
A: Simple, we did not have sufficient money. But we are working on MEDISEP.
Q: Why didn’t we achieve the 30 per cent growth in tax revenue as promised in the earlier budget?
A: Because we could not plug tax evasion with the help of data on returns filed by traders. The Centre started sharing the information in last December. The process will start in six months. We have to achieve it.
Q: Why did you avoid austerity measures, especially when
the state goes through a fiscal crisis?
A: You can’t announce austerity measures in the last year of a government. Also, it is more of a symbolic gesture. But the scrutiny of social security pensioners is a real act.
Q: How much do you expect to save?
A: At least Rs 700 crore can be saved a year through the mustering for pensioners. This money will be used to enrol new eligible persons.
Q: Won’t the hike in land fair value affect land sales in times of slowdown?
A: May be, for a short period. But the government will certainly benefit in the long term because the ongoing infrastructure development projects will increase land prices. It is only a genuine demand if the government takes a share from the big profit made by land owners.