With an eye on Lok Sabha polls, the Congress-led UDF Government in Kerala today unveiled people-friendly Budget proposals for 2013-14 enhancing the social security pension, raising the retirement age and offering sops for farmers including an interest waiver.

It also seeks to mop-up additional revenue of Rs 1,138.33 crore, mostly from luxury items. Cigarettes and liquor, among other things, will attract higher taxes.

In a significant announcement, the Budget proposed to raise the retirement age of government employees, joining the service from April this year, to 60. The retirement age of existing staff is 56.

Interest-free loans

Announcing a set of flagship schemes for the protection of farmers, Finance Minister K.M. Mani set apart Rs 50 crore for writing off the interest on small farmers and announced an interest-free loan scheme for farmers holding below one hectare of land through cooperatives.

In the Budget presented to the State Assembly, Mani also came out with a risk insurance on farm loans guaranteeing that in the event of the farmer’s death, the loan need not be repaid.

Goods and Service Tax

Claiming that the prices of essentials would not be affected on account of changes in the GST on items specified in the Budget, the Minister proposed to raise the Goods and Service Tax on products such as vehicles and a range of consumer goods to 14.5 per cent from 13.5 per cent.

The Government expects to earn Rs 650-crore revenue through this measure.

He said this would bring the tax rate in Kerala on par with other southern States and that the common people would not be affected as basic items such as rice has been exempted.

Two other key sources of additional income that the Budget targeted were increasing the tax on cigarettes from 15 to 20 per cent, anticipating a revenue of Rs 120 crore, and that on foreign liquor from 100 to 105 per cent expecting an extra revenue of Rs 250 crore.

Seeking to help cardamom auctioneers in Kerala, VAT has been reduced to two per cent from five per cent. This would benefit only those who conduct auctions in the recognised centres of the spices board.

The minister also rationalised various fees on land registration and transactions hoping to earn Rs 200 crore.

The Budget estimates for 2013-14 show revenue receipt of Rs 58,057.88 crore and a revenue expenditure of Rs 60,327.85 crore.

After taking into account factors like capital expenditure, public debt servicing and concessions and relaxations, the Budget shows a deficit of Rs 526.54 crore.

(This article was published on March 15, 2013)
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