THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Finance minister Dr T.M. Thomas Isaac has ruled out for the time being the imposition of ‘toll’ and ‘user fee’ for the first set of roads and bridges constructed using funds mobilised by the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIF-B). “However, we have left it open. In future, there could be projects for which tolls or user fee could be introduced. For instance, the high-speed rail corridor or she-toilets across the state could perhaps do well with user fees,” Mr Isaac said while concluding the discussion on Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2016, in the Assembly on Wednesday.
With the passing of the Bill, KIIF-B has come into being. Mr Isaac said that KIIF-B will use both traditional financial instruments like general obligation bonds and innovative ones like Alternative Investment Funds, Infrastructure Investment Trust and land bonds to mop up funds for major infrastructure projects in the state. Repayment was the major worry raised by the opposition. Mr Isaac said that his repayment strategy was based on a rosy prognosis of the economy. "After two years, we expect revenue deficit to come down drastically. By the fifth year, we will be a surplus state. From then on we don't have to borrow to meet out revenue expenditure," Mr Isaac said. Further, the minister said that repayment would actually begin only after two years. He also sets great store by the Goods and Services Tax. "Like many of you say, I am lucky. GST will definitely boost our revenues," he said in the Assembly.
However, there is also a budgetary allocation for repayment; a share of the motor vehicle tax, which will be 50 percent by the fifth year, and petrol cess, which works to over Rs 400 crore annually. The finance minister also emphasised that KIIF-B would be accountable to the Legislative Assembly and would not curtail the rights of administrative departments. Congress leader Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan said that there was no accountability for KIIF-B. V.D. Satheesan said that KIIF-B would appropriate the powers of the departments. Isaac said that the Bill had clauses that ensured that KIIF-B reports are tabled in the Assembly. He also dispelled the notion that departments would be castrated. "The projects to be chosen, the implementing agency, and the supervisory agency will be decided by the departments concerned and not KIIF-B," Isaac said and added: "KIIF-B will do the cost-benefit analysis and assess the viability of the projects." The minister said that Mr Isaac also rejected the recommendation that political representatives should be made part of the Board. "We need people of standing to get money from the market," he said. "What if we get a former RBI governor or a former CAG to the KIIF-B? Won't the market be happy," he said.