Kerala Budget 2018: A Shot in the Arm for Tourism, Startups
Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac’s latest budget lays great emphasis on tourism promotion and startup initiatives. Terming it as a common man’s budget, Isaac has introduced a slew of programmes to promote the welfare of women, education, health and eliminate poverty.
Lauding Kerala Tourism for its Muziris and spice route heritage projects and also the nine international awards bagged by it last year, the FM has set aside Rs. 82 crore for marketing and promoting tourism campaigns. Also, heritage conservation projects and cultural festivals will be getting additional fund this fiscal. Boat races will be given an aid of Rs. 10 crore and it been proposed to bring them under league competitions.
The government has also decided to set aside Rs. 80 crore for promoting startup initiatives with Technopark, Infopark and Electric Hardware Mission getting their due shares. The budget also lays emphasis on providing training for innovative projects for Development and Innovation Strategic Council of Kerala (K-DISC).
The Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) gets a prominent place in the budget as it will be providing funding for development, including the setting up of industrial parks. KIIFB will also provide Rs. 3,500 crore to KSRTC for buying 2000 new buses. Extensive coastal area development packages are also laid down, with the financial help from KIIFB. These packages will also help contain the impact of the return of migrants from Gulf countries.
With the aim of uplift of SC/ST communities, Rs. 2859 crore has been allotted for various industries including bamboo, cashew, khadi and coir. Development projects envisaged in the educational sector include renovation of schools, setting up computer labs and providing smart classes, thereby digitalising schools. Ayurveda and homoeopathy education also get a boost in the budget.
“The Kerala budget presented by Dr. Thomas Isaac is directed towards the overall economic development of the State. The increased allocation and plans for sectors such as agriculture, tourism, startups, innovation, IT hubs and education are to be appreciated,” says Deepak L Aswani, Co-Chair, FICCI Kerala State Council.
While there will be an increase in the tax on alcohol, 13.6 per cent of the budget allotment has been set aside for women empowerment. Vocational training will be provided to women and the state has decided to build Nirbhaya and ‘She lodges’ to be set up in Kochi, for which Rs. 5 crore and Rs. 4 crore have been devoted respectively. Public toilets will also be built for women. A comprehensive package for poultry farming and fishermen was also announced in the budget.
“The budget has given a lot of emphasis to general budgeting, with significant allocations towards aspects like women’s safety. The FM has recognised the plight of Gulf returnees and incorporated rehabilitation measures to support them. With an aim to revive the slow growth rate of the Kerala economy, the budget has focussed on sectors like knowledge-based industry, agriculture, tourism and electronics,” says Dr. Martin Patrick, Chief Economic Advisor, Centre for Public Policy Research.
However, the proposals in the budget rest heavily on the success of KIIFB, which, in turn, depends on measures like fund mobilisation, repayment of borrowings and interest rates. “If KIIFB fails in its stated objectives, the budgetary proposals are destined to fail,” he added.
Dr. D Dhanuraj, Chairman, Centre for Public Policy Research opined, “The budget will not help increase employment opportunities or boost economic growth in the State. Instead of novel proposals, this budget has given to the people of Kerala some timeworn ideas.”