Kerala government asks Centre for more fiscal powers, approval of SilverLine

Raising waterlogging concerns, SilverLine stones submerge amid rain in Malappuram
K-Rail had clarified on Monday that it has not abandoned the controversial SilverLine project. Representational image/File Photo.

New Delhi: Kerala Finance Minister KN Balagopal on Friday asked the Central government for more fiscal powers and approval for the controversial SilverLine project, the semi-high-speed railway line from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod.

Balagopal also asked to increase the shareable proportion of the GST collections. The demands were raised during the pre-Budget consultations with Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The Budget for 2023-24 is to be presented on February 1 next year.

The state economies are in the stage of transition from recession ushered in by the pandemic and "neo restrictions" in the form of fiscal consolidation at this stage could only help the transitional cycle to move reversely.

"We submit that states must be given more fiscal powers/ autonomy to ensure cooperative federalism and encourage state-specific efforts to attain growth and ensure social justice," Balagopal said in the submission.

With respect to the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the demand is for increasing the shareable proportion of GST collection from the 50:50 ratio to the 60:40 ratio in favour of the states as well as extending the GST compensation period.

The five-year GST compensation period ended in June this year.

According to the submission, the share of central surcharges and cesses have been increased from around 10 per cent to 20 per cent of the Gross Tax Revenue (10.4 per cent in 2011-12 and 19.90 per cent in 2020-21) over the last decade.

"This has reduced the share of states from the divisible pool as a percentage of the Gross Tax Revenue of the Union... the Union may restrict surcharges and cesses as a fixed per cent of Gross Tax Revenues (GTR) so that the divisible pool of taxes does not shrink substantially," it added.

Further, the minister has urged the Centre to rationalise cess and surcharges, and also enhance revenue-neutral rates by taxing luxury items more.

Among others, the state has mooted the proposal of linking part of the additional borrowing limit with capital expenditure. "It will be a welcome move to have an expert committee to examine the specific liquidity problems faced by the states, and Ways and Means and overdraft limits are redefined".

Kerala has also sought a special package for the economic rehabilitation of the return migrants in the Budget.

K-Rail's clarification
Kerala Rail Development Corporation Ltd (K-Rail), tasked with constructing the state government's semi-high-speed rail network, clarified on Monday that it has not abandoned the controversial SilverLine project.

The clarification came after media reports emerged that the agency has stopped the project.

“The rumour that the proposed Kasaragod-Thiruvananthapuram semi-high speed project has been abandoned is baseless,” K-Rail said in its Facebook post.

K-Rail said that neither the State government nor the Central government has decided to pull the plug on the project.

(With inputs from PTI)

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