Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala termed the Budget an election stunt. It smacked off a desperate political attempt to stave off sure defeat in the Assembly polls.
Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac had attempted to pull the wool over the electorate’s eyes by peddling half-truths.
Dr. Isaac had increased the base price of rubber, fixed at ₹150 by the United Democratic Front government in 2015, to ₹170 and claimed the nominal and belated increase to be a windfall for farmers. If he had a genuine concern for rubber growers, Dr. Isaac should have fixed the base price at ₹250 much earlier.
As usual, hyperbole and unkept promises characterised Dr. Isaac’s latest Budget. The government’s promise in the previous Budget to give jobs to 25 lakh people remained on paper.
Dr. Isaac had a history of coming up with flighty schemes. In an earlier Budget, he had proposed mining the deep sea for sand. Then he suggested launching three mobile phone factories in the public sector. Generating fuel from marine debris was another quixotic project that did not take form.
Dr. Isaac’s budget was divorced from reality. He had once proposed the purchase or lease of vast tracts of land in Andhra Pradesh to cultivate raw nuts for the State’s cashew processing industry.
Mr. Chennithala asked what had become of the Idukki, Kuttanad, and Wayanad development packages. The ₹3,000-crore coastal development package remained a chimaera.
Mr. Chennithala said he could reel off hundreds of Budget promises that had come to nought. Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) had fallen short of meeting its stated target of completing projects worth ₹60,000 crore. It could only complete works valued at ₹6,000 crore.
Revenue deficit had increased despite Dr. Isaac’s claims to the contrary. The Budget lacked any concrete proposal to revitalise the State’s economy cratered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The government had announced a slew of projects with great fanfare. But, it was silent on the mechanism of funding the schemes.
The State’s unchecked borrowing was sure to run the economy to ruin further. Kerala’s ease of doing business ranking had plummeted.