By K Kunhikrishnan
The 68th Kerala Budget presented by the Kerala Finance Minister with the expected rhetoric of criticism of the Central Government’s demonetization and the financial policies, leaves more questions than answers. There are many positive statements and schemes, but riddled with practical issues of implementation. The Economic Survey (2015-2016) has stated that Kerala has outstanding debt liabilities of INR 157370.33 crores. Out of the 122 Public Sector Undertakings in the State only 107 are working and only 50 of them are profit making. The state spends INR 31909 crores for payment of salaries, INR 18,174 crores for Pension and INR 13631 crores towards interests. Revenue deficit in the Budget is placed at INR 16043.14. Kerala is running on a money order economy and the state of affairs in countries from where Keralites are working is not continuing to be conducive for the flow of money. The panacea that the Finance Minister prescribes for infrastructure development is investment from Non-resident Keralites. Kerala State Infrastructure Board (KIIFB) is expected to attract whopping sums, like INR 50,000 crores in five years for roads. Kerala State Financial Enterprises(KSFE) will also start chit funds for attracting investments up to Rs. 15,000 crores. This projection is to be seen in perspective as inflow of funds is not on increase and of the industrial climate in the state, which admittedly is not the best for new investments. The militancy of trade unionism, irrespective of any political party, has been a great deterrent.
The Budget projects various ‘Missions’ in corporate style and they are laudable if executed properly will definitely pave way for a cleaner, and socially safer and economically better state. While schemes have been announced with lofty ideals, a social auditing mechanism is not inbuilt to assess actual performance.
As a frequent traveller I had been fond of my briefcase. It has immense uses. It carries your essentials while you are on transit and at times it carries your alter ego. Never had I ever thought about its potentials. The potential of any briefcase is thus unimaginable that it could even torpedo the mandates of a written constitution, in the name of democracy.
Even after having a thumping victory and unprecedented majority, AIADMK is unable to organically choose a Chief Minister. The leaders are searching for the inner voice, not their own, but of leaders who are already in their graves, who are the original owners of those powerful briefcases. The people who had done their job of electing a party, for having their government, do not have any clue as to who would be their Chief Minister. Thus being at the mercy of members of the legislative assembly, who have been divided into different camps, eagerly waiting for the commands that may come out of those briefcases.
By virtue of various provisions in the Constitution of India, the ball is certainly in the court of the Governor of the State who is supposed to act according to the mandate of the provisions in the Constitution. One has to admit that Smt. Jayalalithaa had been a trend setter. She had done so many things including giving a clarity of various constitutional issues, by virtue of being party to the proceedings in Court. Since her forte was Tamil Nadu and her most comfortable position was either being Chief Minister’s Man (or Woman) or the Chief Minister herself, her appointment made the Supreme Court to interpret the law and give clarity with regards to the position involving the appointments of the Chief Ministers, by the Governor.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces as the honoured Chief Guest at India’s 68th Republic Day celebrations has played a pivotal role in cementing friendly relations between India and UAE. This is the second successive State Visit by Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed to India. The first one was in February 2016. This is also a clear indication that he and the people of UAE have a special place for Indians in their heart.
As a part of the visit, President Shri Pranab Mukherjee had hosted a banquet dinner in honour of the Crown Prince, which was preceded by official discussions. The Prince also met Vice-President Shri Mohammed Hamid Ansari and had delegation-level discussions with Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, who also hosted a banquet lunch in honour of the visiting dignitary. Many dignified personalities from various sectors like business, media, finance etc. were present at the dinner. The meet also included NRI businessman Galfar Muhammadali, who was sentenced to 15 years by an Omani court for bribing a government official to get an extension of a contract granted by Petroleum Development Oman (PDO). The criminal court in Muscat had in March 2014 sentenced him to 15 years in jail and slapped a fine of Rs 27 crore.