Kerala Opposition calls budget ‘sly jugglery of figures’

Revised provisions are merely to hoodwink people, says leader V.D. Satheeshan

Opposition leader V.D. Satheeshan said the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government’s revised budget for 2021-22 was merely sly jugglery of figures to hoodwink the people.

For one, the government had set aside ₹20,000 crore to pay the money it owed social welfare pension beneficiaries and public work contractors. However, Finance Minister K.N. Balagopal presented the State’s financial obligation as a “stimulus package” in his budget speech, he said.

The Minister had tried to pull the wool over the eyes of the people, Mr. Satheeshan said. The government had made no original allocation in the budget to leg up the COVID-19 ravaged economy. Mr. Balagopal had misrepresented facts, he said.

Mr. Balagopal also claimed the government would transfer ₹8,900 crore directly to the people in the budget speech. The Opposition said it had suggested such a measure in pre-budget discussions with the government. Direct cash transfer to citizens would re-animate the market, prompt spending, rejuvenate the economy, enhance production, create jobs, and ultimately improve the State’s tax earnings, the UDF claimed to have said.

Mr. Satheeshan alleged the Finance Minister had walked back from the promise minutes after delivering the budget speech in the Assembly. Mr. Balagopal told reporters there was no direct cash transfer. Instead, he said the money was for paying welfare pensions, the Opposition leader alleged.

The LDF government’s budget was replete with such misrepresentations. It was a hive of falsehoods, Mr. Sateeshan said. The government had pegged the State’s revenue deficit at ₹16,910.12 crore. The Opposition leader said Mr. Balagopal had deliberately obfuscated the State’s actual revenue shortfall, which hovered around ₹37,000 crore.

The budget had no coherent plan for additional resource mobilisation. It had also eschewed new taxes. The government’s annual financial statement lacked transparency, Mr. Satheeshan said.

He said the Finance Minister had not factored in the additional revenue expenditure of ₹1,715 crore and the ₹20,000 crore-so-called “stimulus” package in the State’s revenue deficit calculation.

Such financial shenanigans dotted the second Pinarayi Vijayan government’s revised budget. It had no sanctity or credibility, and was patently questionable.

Mr. Satheeshan said previous Finance Minister Dr. Thomas Isaac had claimed the next government would have ₹23,000 crore to spend. He said he had kept ₹5,000 crore in the treasury, and the Centre would pay ₹18,000 crore. However, Mr. Balagopal’s budget belied Dr Isaac’s tall claims.

Mr. Satheeshan said the initial part of the budget speech was merely a political speech suited for the maidan. Mr. Balagopal had disregarded the constitutional piety of a budget presentation, he said.

“Matters that should have been in the Governor’s address were mirrored in the budget speech. The government seemed to have lost its mind. It was groping in darkness and was trapped in its falsities,” Mr. Satheeshan said.

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