An Optimistic Budget at a Challenging Time
Two-time Kerala Finance Minister Dr. T M Thomas Isaac presented his 10th budget on January 31 exuding confidence and positivity. The budget was a tight-rope walk for the LDF Government as it tries to balance spending on developmental projects while battling revenue challenges which are difficult to fix. Sops and incentives, as expected in an election year, have been doled out to crucial vote banks.
While the FM envisages a quantum jump in GST collections, many experts feel that it is too optimistic. The unprecedented floods in August 2018, the Sabarimala stir and leakages in GST collections have all put enormous strain on Kerala’s fiscal health and economy at large. The business sentiment in the State is gloomy especially after the floods; the real estate sector has been in the dumps for quite some time now and the Middle East is reeling under recession with no signs of recovery. None of this augurs well for Kerala.
The budget has announced 25 projects for ‘New Kerala.’ This include an industrial corridor between Kochi and Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu), rice parks in Thrissur and near Thiruvananthapuram, a coconut village project, and Bekal-Kovalam waterway. Rs. 700 crore has been set aside for startup ventures. A model Global Kerala Centre will be established at Mavelikkara on the five-acre land owned by NORKA. One per cent ‘flood cess’ will be imposed on goods and services in the brackets above 5 per cent GST and for gold to ‘Rebuild Kerala’. As expected, the business community is unhappy. Instead of rationalising expenses and improving efficiency in tax collection, the FM has opted for the easier route, they say.
On the cover this month is a woman business leader from Kerala’s hospitality scene. While the hospitality industry has many women in leadership roles, not many are entrepreneurs. Mini Sajan Varghese, CEO of SAJ Hotels & Resorts, has worked her way up to the corner office. Being the spouse of SAJ head honcho Sajan Varghese is not the only reason why she is where she is today. Read her inspiring story on page 28.
Once more, it is time for ITB in Berlin, and as always, Destination Kerala Business Magazine represented by executive editor Athul Lal will be there along with the delegation led by Kerala Tourism to market God’s Own Country. The world’s largest travel trade fair is important, all the more this year because “when catastrophe hits a globally renowned destination, the news travels fast; the stories around how soon we bounced back, do not always”.