While no one expected a populist Budget, the proposals put forward by Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman seem to place India in the growth trajectory. Like all previous budgets, there is a significant boost for agriculture, infrastructure and foreign investments particularly at a time when the economy is showing signals of a slowdown.
Being a Malayali hailing from an anti-BJP state, I was curious to see the strategy of Modi 2.0 government for Kerala. Although there is no direct mention of any projects/allocations, it is not a disappointing one for Kerala. The state can take advantage of some of the Budget proposals.
For Women SHG
Kerala is ranked second in the number of establishments under women entrepreneurship (11.35 percent). The Women SHG Interest Subvention Programme is anticipated to identify, promote and provide support to women entrepreneurs for scaling up their existing business ventures. We already have a proven model under Kudumbasree and it is all about connecting dots to take maximum advantage of the Mudra loan and the overdraft facility proposed.
Kerala being the land of startups stands to gain. The idea to extend the Stand-Up India scheme as well as lesser tax scrutiny will help many aspiring startups, particularly from Kerala to grow. The plan to create 80 livelihood business incubators and 20 technology business incubators in the agri-sector needs appreciation. It will also encourage more to start up particularly in electronics and food processing sectors.
Kerala has been in the forefront in e-vehicle adoption. The recently concluded ‘Evolve’ summit has plans to roll out one million e-vehicles by 2020.Therefore, the Budget thrust for e-mobility and charging infrastructure will come handy for us.
Inland cargo movement
The state has immense potential for inland cargo movement and the Budget has envisaged using rivers for cargo transport to decongest roads and railways. It is the right time to activate the existing project plans and make it happen.
Although the government has done away with a separate rail budget, there has been significant allocation for the ailing service provider. The PPP model suggested in the budget for railways can be channelised to find investments to the ever-pending coach and wagon factories as well as speed up the doubling of railway lines.
Kumarakom has been selected as one of the 17 world class tourist sites in the country. This is an achievement for the state and an opportunity to project our other sites to the world. Kerala is already a preferred tourist destination and this move can better the beleaguered hospitality and travel industry due to the recent Nipah outbreak and floods.
Rubber and cashew
The duty rise on cashew kernels and few categories of synthetic rubber is expected to benefit local producers. However, this is not going to help us in a big way because majority of the farmers/planters have given up production turning factories and plantations inactive. However, it is disappointing to see a hike in excise duty of fuel and gold which can have a severe impact on a consumer state like ours. There are claims that cost push inflation figures are much lower than what we had witnessed during the UPA time. But the fact is that what has gone up has never come down. This budget is not going to ease the life of common man.
What government needs to do?
The LDF government here will dissent to the budget proposals by Modi 2.0. Whether Pinarayi Vijayan likes it or not, the Modi government is here to stay for the next five years. Considering the larger interest of Kerala, the chief minister and his cabinet need to sideline all political differences and egos and work in tandem with the centre. The Opposition party has also a key role to play here. There is no point in crying over revenue cuts to the states when we are already lapsing central funds. The focus must be to persuade the Union ministry to propose new projects which should be timely followed up and closed by the state.
Kerala nurses the country's largest PSU portfolio consisting of 97 active enterprises. In spite of having 5 Union cabinet Ministers during the UPA- 2 government, Alappuzha district in Kerala witnessed the maximum lock down of these PSUs.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal.
(Vivek George is a management Professional)...