In this episode of the businessline podcast, hosted by Anjana PV, the spotlight is on the recently presented budget for the year 2024 by KN Balagopal.

The state of Kerala is grappling with a significant debt crisis, prompting intense speculation regarding the implications of this budget on the common populace and various sectors.

Vinson Kurian, consultant, businessline, dissects the nuances of the Kerala budget 2024. Vinson begins by acknowledging that despite modest revenue mobilization targets set by the finance minister, there remains skepticism about achieving them, given Kerala’s historical struggle with meeting collection targets.

However, there are notable allocations in the budget, particularly towards local bodies, which see a higher percentage of allocation compared to previous years, signaling a commitment to empower grassroots governance.

The budget also sets an ambitious target of eradicating extreme poverty in the state by 2025.

Vinson highlights changes in the pension scheme, with the proposal to transition from the participatory pension scheme to a new assured pension fund, subject to further committee deliberation. However, he expresses concerns over the state’s tax revenue targets, which have historically fallen short of expectations.

In terms of capital expenditure, the budget earmarks substantial funds for infrastructure projects and a construction sector revival package aimed at job creation.

Vinson underscores the alarming figures of revenue and fiscal deficit, indicating the precarious state of Kerala’s finances. Despite hints at out-of-the-box thinking and a potential Plan B for economic recovery, there’s a notable absence of structural reforms in the budget.

The discussion also touches upon the management of public funds, revealing a reliance on external borrowing, which raises questions about sustainability. With public debt soaring to 40% of the GDP and interest payment burden at 20%, Kerala faces a daunting financial landscape that warrants urgent attention.

While the budget addresses some pressing issues, it falls short in addressing fundamental challenges, leaving Kerala’s fiscal future uncertain.