Thiruvananthapuram: The Congress-led opposition on Friday asked state Finance Minister Thomas Issac for an open debate as it came out with a white paper on the state's finances.
"With the permission of the Leader of Opposition, I invite Issac to take part in an open debate with me on this topic, as all this while he has never answered our questions, be it in the assembly or outside," said senior Congress legislator V.D.Sateesan, convenor of the committee that brought out the white paper.
Incidentally, this is the first time in the state that the opposition has come out with this.
"Kerala's public debt as on date stands at Rs 2.62 lakh crore, up from Rs 1.50 lakh crore, when the Pinarayi Vijayan government took over in 2016. If this situation continues by the time this government demits office in 2021, it would go beyond Rs 3 lakh crore. All financial indicators of the state are sitting at dangerous levels and the next government will be having a very tough time," said Sateesan.
"Issac's lofty claim of targeting a collection of tax that would see a 25 per cent growth every year has fallen flat and it's just touched 10 per cent only. He was supposed to have collected Rs 30,000 crores by way of outstanding taxes and in this he has just managed to collect a mere Rs 150 crores. His performance this time is a shade of what he did in his previous tenure (2006-11)," added Sateesan.
Reacting to the financial situation, Issac told the media that the state is passing through tough times.
"The Centre has to give around Rs 13000 crores under various schemes to the state and it has not come. The Congress-led opposition, instead of protesting against the Centre, is criticising us for political gains," said Issac.
Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala pointed out that apart from the budgeted figures, the biggest danger facing the state is the pet project of Issac - KIIFB, which has gone haywire.
KIIFB came into existence in 1999 under the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Act 1999 (Act 4 of 2000) to manage the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund.
"What should be noted is that this is a project which is outside the state budget and nothing has gone according to what Issac has envisaged. We will soon come out with a full report on what's happening and we have found out this is nothing but a huge burden for the state. He says Rs 50,000 crores would be spent for various projects under this scheme before this government's tenure ends," said Chennithala.
"The plan size has also been cut and last year it was 20 per cent and this year it has already touched 30 per cent. The finances are in shambles and the biggest loser have been the local bodies," added Chennithala.