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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Kerala Budget: Covid package of Rs 20,000 crore, no fresh taxes

Presenting the Revised Budget in the Assembly, state Finance Minister K N Balagopal said the package is meant to face the socioeconomic and health challenges emerging in the backdrop of the second wave of Covid-19.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram |
June 5, 2021 4:25:04 am
Finance Minister K N Balagopal presents the Budget Friday. (PTI)

A second Covid-19 package of Rs 20,000 crore, including a proposed investment of Rs 2,800 crore in the health infrastructure to face a possible third wave of the pandemic, is the major highlight of the revised Budget presented by the CPI (M)-led LDF government in Kerala on Friday.

Presenting the Revised Budget in the Assembly, state Finance Minister K N Balagopal said the package is meant to face the socioeconomic and health challenges emerging in the backdrop of the second wave of Covid-19.

The Budget has set apart Rs 1,000 crore for providing Covid-19 vaccines to all those above 18 years, and another Rs 500 crore to purchase allied equipment.

Opposition Congress slammed the Budget,saying Balagopal’s speech was filled with political comments, while the BJP called it a disappointment.

Balagopal said no changes were made in the Budget of the previous LDF regime presented for this fiscal. Instead, new proposals were made considering the current scenario. Of the

Rs 20,000-crore Coovid package, Rs 8,900 crore is earmarked for people in crisis due to loss of livelihood, and Rs 8,300 crore towards interest subsidy of loans provided for economic rejuvenation.

The Budget did not make any new proposal for higher taxes, or to cut expenditure — instead, the Finance Minister said the government will save the society through borrowings.

Balagopal said, “A time of crisis is not the right time for expenditure reduction and higher taxes. During economic slowdown and natural disasters, the government could have stepped aside by reducing expenditure. But this is not the approach of the Left Front. During a crisis, the Left approach is to stand up and save the society even through borrowings.”

He said, “The first Pinarayi Vijayan government did that. This government will also follow the same policy.’’

The package of Rs 28,00 crore will be spent towards facing the health emergency triggered by the pandemic, the revised Budget proposes. As part of strengthening the state’s health infrastructure in the wake of an anticipated third wave, isolation wards will be set up even at community health centres, and at taluk, district and general hospitals. Special blocks in every medical college for managing contagious diseases and emergency treatment facilities for children need to be strengthened, it mentions.

A liquid medical oxygen plant with 150 metric ton capacity would be established, and the plant will have 1,000 metric ton reserve storage capacity and will be equipped with tankers for supply, the Budget spells out.

The Budget announced a self-employment scheme to rehabilitate expatriate workers from Kerala who lost their jobs, and to equip them to begin self-employment enterprises. It has earmarked Rs 1,000 crore to be provided as loan at low interest, in association with various financial institutions. In collaboration with financial institutions, a loan scheme will be formulated for making available fuel efficient and eco-friendly electric two-wheelers and automobiles to people who use two-wheelers for their work— such as newspaper distributors, fish vendors, retailers and home delivery agencts.

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