Finance Minister K N Balagopal on Tuesday ruled out Tamil Nadu-style direct money transfer to the poor reeling under deep COVID-induced financial stress. "During the last five years, the Kerala economy has been stagnating," Balagopal said.
If the state's revenue was Rs 51,876 crore in 2016-17, the minister said five fiscals later in 2020-21 it was only 54,000 crore. In the case of non-tax revenue, Balagopal said the fall was precipitous. From Rs 12,265 crore in 2019-20, it has plummeted to Rs 6420 crore in 2020-21.
Further, he said the tax revenue protection states in India had been enjoying, the GST compensation, would end this fiscal. When the GST had come into force, states were given a legal assurance that the Centre would fill the gap if a state failed to achieve a certain annual growth in GST revenue. In Kerala's case, the promised GST annual growth is 14 per cent. Fall in collections, which has always been the case, will be made up by the centre.
The finance minister said that central government grants, which was Rs 19,000 crore this fiscal, would decline in the coming years.
Despite such fiscal stress, the finance minister said over 55 lakh pensioners were given Rs 1600 a month. "Some receive even more, " he said. Those poor who are not entitled to any pension, like welfare fund contributors who have not yet reached pension age, are being paid Rs 1000 each. This, along with the massive investments made through KIIFB, would put money in circulation, the minister said.
The demand for direct money transfer was raised in the Assembly by Muslim League leader P K Kunhalikutty. "It is not enough that you provide food kits. Direct payment of Rs 5000 should also be made."
The minister said the government had pumped over Rs 15,000 crore into the economy last fiscal. "Where in the world have 85 lakh people were provided monthly food kits, " the finance minister said.