The 2018 Kerala State Budget was announced on Friday by Finance Minister Thomas Isaac in Thiruvananthapuram.
Not digressing from the previous year’s Budget, the Finance Minister announced several schemes for public health, education, rural housing and other welfare measures for women, transgender people and SC/STs.
Here are the highlights of the FM’s Budget speech:
The Finance Minister promised that the fiscal deficit will be down to 3.1 per cent this year. He also said that the government will make every effort to bring down the revenue deficit to 1.6 per cent this financial year.
The Budget, coming in the backdrop of Cyclone Ockhi, that left a trail of death and destruction in its wake in coastal Kerala, the Finance Minister announced a Rs 2000-crore package for coastal area development.
Rs 954 crore was announced for food subsidy. The state will focus on complete social security schemes with the subsidy being announced to fight hunger. Additionally, Rs 20 crore will also be allocated for the Hunger-Free Project on January 1 this year.
The Finance Minister also announced Rs 2,500 crore for Project Life, a housing scheme for homeless people in the state. Project Life is a comprehensive housing scheme for all the landless and homeless, aimed at providing safe housing for 4.30 lakh landless and homeless people across the state.
Schools in coastal areas will be renovated, the FM announced. Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1 crore will be allocated to develop the infrastructure of schools which have 500 students or more.
Rs 33 crore will be allocated for digitisation of schools in the state.
The FM also announced that around 1.4 lakh students from unaided schools joined government schools in the past year
The Finance Minister announced that oncology (cancer treatment) departments will be started in all government hospitals. Further, trauma care centres will be started in taluk hospitals and a cardiology department with cathlabs will be opened in all district hospitals.
The FM added that there will be a “scheme to make accident care more efficient and private hospitals will also be roped in to the scheme”.
The Malabar Cancer Centre will be upgraded to the status of a regional cancer centre in Thiruvananthapuram.
The FM further announced that public health will be in the spotlight, with the allocation of special packages for local bodies, which will come with other health security schemes.
He also stated that emergency services will be made available for free at private hospitals, and the government will bear the expenses.
Rs 10 crore was announced for the welfare of transgender persons.
Rs 2,859 was announced for welfare schemes for SCs and STs.
Further, Rs 104 crore was announced for welfare schemes for the disabled.
Rs 50 crore was allocated for endosulfan victims as part of the first instalment. The FM also stated that the Kasaragod package will be utilized for the benefit of the affected people.
The FM also announced that the government will term migrant workers as ‘guest workers’ who come to work in the state.
Forest and wildlife protection schemes
The FM also announced Rs 248 crore for forest and wildlife protection in his Budget speech.
New schemes for women safety
Rs 1,267 crore was announced for women-friendly schemes to ensure that women aren’t discriminated in their work place.
The FM also announced that 13.6 per cent of the Budget will be allocated exclusively for women-centric measures.
‘She Lodge’, a temporary housing facility for working women will be launched in Kochi. Rs 50 crore has been allocated to protect women against attacks. A Rs 2,000 hike for ASHA workers was also announced by the FM in his Budget speech.
There is pressure on the Finance Minister to wade through the ongoing financial crunch faced by the state due to insufficient revenue generation post GST.
Veering from his usual expenditure-push strategy, the Finance Minister, who hinted at fiscal prudence earlier, mentioned that he would increase:
Tax on foreign liquor will be increased to 78 per cent and foreign wine to 25 per cent. Tax on Indian-Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) to increase to 200 per cent for liquor costing atleast Rs 400 and 210 per cent for liquor costing above Rs 400. Further, the sales tax on beer will be increased to 100 per cent.
Fair value of land will go up by 10 per cent. The fair value was last fixed in 2014. The government aims to generate increased revenue from land transactions.
Additionally, the FM also announced that the service tax will go up by 5 per cent.