Kerala Budget: Building materials, movie tickets, alcohol to cost more

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Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 31 (IANS) Besides paying more for building materials, movie tickets and alcohol, people in Kerala will now pay a one per cent additional cess on all items falling under the 12, 18 and 28 per cent GST slabs for the next two years, Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Issac said on Thursday while presenting the budget.

The government also announced Rs 739 crore for developing the famed Sabarimala shrine. Announcing tax exemption for electric vehicles, the minister said around a million e-rickshaws will be on the roads by 2022.

The state’s revenue receipts stood at Rs 1,15,354.71 crore while the revenue expenses touched Rs 1,24,125 crore in the first budget that was presented after the 2018 devastating floods.

Planning to raise additional funds for the rebuilding of the state, Issac announced 25 new schemes.

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The increase in tax on building materials would see a hike in the cost of items like cement, plywood, marble, tiles and paint.

Likewise movie tickets will see a 10 per cent increased tax. All alcoholic drinks will cost an additional two per cent, besides a luxury tax will be levied on all residential buildings which are above 3,000 square feet.

He also announced Rs 739 crore for developmental work for the Sabarimala temple, besides Rs 200 crore for the development of roads leading to the Lord Ayyappa shrine.

The allocation by the Pinarayi Vijayan government came after it faced heavy fire for its adamant stand to implement the September 27, 2018, Supreme Court verdict allowing all women to enter the temple.

The Finance Minister also announced an increase of Rs 100 per month for all social welfare pensions and as a result the minimum pension would go up to Rs 1,200. He said the state planned to raise it to Rs 1,500 in five years time.

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Tax exemptions were given for electric vehicles and the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation will also move towards plying electric buses, Issac said.

One of the major projects that was announced was the construction of the 515 kilometre long high-speed Thiruvananthapuram-Kasaragod railway track at a staggering cost of Rs 55,000 crore.

Its construction will start in 2019 and when completed the time taken to travel between the northern point Kasargod to the state capital in the southern tip would be just four hours, he added.

When it came to empowerment of women, Issac said Rs 1,420 crore were allocated towards various women-centric schemes, besides a daily wage between Rs 400 and Rs 600 for 25,000 poor women in 2019.

The fisheries sector also got a substantial sum of Rs 2,000 crore.

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The opposition Congress called the budget “disappointing” and one that would bring no solace to the people.

“Time and again Issac mentions projects and says the funds for it will come from KIIFB (Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board), which is a government-owned financial institution to mobilise funds for infrastructure development from outside the state revenue.

“But where and how will KIIFB raise the funds, he is yet to say,” Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said.

–IANS

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