Will the Budget Show us the Finger, Again?
Kerala FM Dr. Thomas Isaac’s recommendations have mostly been ignored by FM Nirmala Sitharaman or even her predecessor. Increasing the annual borrowing limit of the State from the open market from 3 to 3.5 per cent of GDP has been one of Dr. Isaac’s long-pending demands. Another irritant has been the inordinate delay in GST compensation which is making fiscal management painful.
With tourism contributing 10-12 per cent towards the State’s income, any relief to promote the sector will have far-reaching impact on Kerala. One of the demands from the industry has been around GST on foreign tourists. Ever since GST was rolled out, the industry has been seeking refund of GST for foreign tourists. It has been articulated in the IGST Act, 2017, but not been implemented yet.
Of late, seizure of smuggled gold has been making news headlines often. To be more precise, after the Centre hiked import duty on gold from 10 to 12.5 per cent last year, organised gold retail has been at a disadvantage witnessing de-growth. This is in a State which accounts for the maximum per capita expenditure on gold in India! Rationalising import duty on gold will end the arbitrage which attracts smugglers and drive more revenue for government as more gold starts moving through legitimate channels.
Another area where Kerala seeks urgent attention is railways. All eyes are on Sitharaman to see if she includes the
Rs. 66,000-crore Thiruvananthapuram-Kasargod semi high-speed rail project in the budget. Funds are also yet to be allocated for the rail coach factory in Palakkad announced many years ago.
Will yet another Union Budget accord step-motherly treatment to God’s Own Country?