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Kerala Budget focuses on knowledge economy, linking skill with manufacturing

The first full Budget of the second Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government in Kerala, presented in the Assembly on Friday, focuses on steps to boost the knowledge economy and linking skill with manufacturing.

Presented by Finance Minister K N Balagopal, the state Budget for 2022-23 has envisaged four science parks, 14 district skill parks for young entrepreneurs to start ventures, medical technology innovation centre, a Kerala genomic data centre for health care, work-near-home projects for IT professionals and educated homemakers, four IT corridors along the south-north national highway and 20 micro-IT parks. The Budget has proposed a total allocation of Rs 2,000 crore for these schemes.

In the higher education sector, translational research centres will be developed in university campuses. Startups and incubation centres will be set up along with these centres. Special schemes will be allowed to start new short-term courses and postgraduation courses in project mode at university campuses. Modern courses will be designed and conducted with the assistance of existing departments. Under this scheme, envisaged for five years, three projects each will be sanctioned to each university during this year. Mini industrial units with modern technical facilities, and start-ups can be set up adjacent to engineering colleges, polytechnics, ITIs and arts and science colleges.

“Through this, along with their studies, students can participate in the economic and production process, acquire training and make earnings. Educated people, including former students, can be associated with these enterprises. Many educational institutions across the globe have similar employment entrepreneurship centres. A pilot project is announced to start such centres in all 14 districts of Kerala,” Balagopal said.

The Budget has set aside Rs 10 crore to help medical students, who have returned from war-torn Ukraine, to continue their studies. The allocation was made to the Non-Resident Keralites Affairs Department.

Against the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine war, the government would convene the ‘Global Peace Conference’, a meeting of prominent peace workers and thinkers across the world, on nuclear disarmament and world peace.

The finance minister, who is a CPI(M) state secretariat member, has heavily relied on the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB), which has been known for making off-budget borrowings to invest in infrastructure projects. The minister said KIIFB would give Rs 2,000 crore for land acquisition for the proposed semi-high speed rail corridor, which is facing stiff opposition in many parts of Kerala. Besides, Rs 1,500 crore from KIIFB would be used for two major road infrastructure projects in the state.

The fair value of land would be increased by 10 per cent, apart from revising the basic land tax. To solve the crisis in the plantation sector, the government would amend the law to include pomiculture (growing fruits) under plantation, in addition to rubber, coffee and tea. The amendment would be made by preserving the objectives of land reforms, he said.

The government also intends to expedite steps to bring the 5G network to the state and fast-track mechanisation in the agriculture sector. An amount of Rs 2,000 crore has been set aside for surviving the threat of inflation and ensuring food security.

The Budget said the state aims at net-zero carbon emission by 2050, thereby becoming a role model for the nation. A scheme titled Suchithwa Sagaram would be launched to remove plastic waste from the sea and water bodies.

A major highlight of the new tax proposals is that the green tax imposed on old vehicles (above 15 years) has been increased by 50 per cent. In addition, a green tax will also be levied on diesel vehicles.

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