Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan on Friday addressed the new State Assembly, listing out the policies of the second Pinarayi Vijayan government. In the nearly two-hour-long address, Khan complimented the Vijayan government which got a second term.
According to his address, the second Pinarayi Vijayan government promised to raise farmers' income by 50 per cent in the next five years and will ensure there would be no landless people in Kerala.
Cooperative society for young entrepreneurs, online cultural festivals, formation of the Centre of Excellence for Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence, more employability centres, construction of 4,000 new houses under Phase II and III of the LIEF Mission programme were some of the fresh promises by the government.
All welfare and development initiatives and mammoth infrastructure projects, launched by the previous government including the flagship K-FON programme to provide free hi- speed internet to the poor families, would be completed in a time-bound manner despite financial constraints, Khan said in his policy adress
Providing free COVID-19 vaccine to all is the policy of the state government and an additional Rs 1,000 crore expenditure is expected for this, he said while presenting the policy address.
Despite fiscal constraints, the government has stepped forward to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic, he said, adding that the government has floated a global tender for the procurement of three crore doses of COVID-19 vaccines as well as by placing orders with domestic manufacturers for one crore doses.
Lavishing praise on the state's fight against the pandemic, he said the strength and ability of Kerala's healthcare systems to withstand the unprecedented challenge posed by the COVID-19 are derived from the decentralised people-centric systems-building approach.
Even though there are over 22 lakh confirmed COVID cases, the state could keep the mortality to around 8,000, he said.
"Unprecedented COVID pandemic had thrown a big challenge. The resurgence of COVID has resulted in falling revenues. This might constrain us to push the panic button," he further added.
Detailing the welfare programmes implemented during the time of the pandemic, he said the state government, in the current second wave, has announced Rs 1,000 crore as ex-gratia payments to all 14.7 lakh BPL families who do not have welfare pensions.
The Governor also hailed the positive response of people towards the vaccine challenge proposed by the government. He also recalled the comprehensive Rs 20,000 crore relief package implemented by the previous government during the first wave of the pandemic.
Detailing the impact of the pandemic on the state's finances, he said it is estimated that Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) would decline by about 3.82 per cent in 2020- 21.
"We expected a sharp recovery in the economic growth to 6.60 per cent in 2021-22. But the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic can be an impediment to this expectation," Khan said.
Though a sharp rise of 37.87 per cent growth was expected in revenue receipts in 2021-22, the consequences of lockdown necessitated by a surge in COVID-19 cases, is likely to constrain this, he said, adding that higher revenue as well as fiscal deficit were on cards. A counter-cyclical fiscal policy to stimulate the economy has been initiated lest the economic slowdown should become steeper, he said.
Complimenting the state for achieving high levels of plan and social sector spending, including on health, in the last financial year through higher levels of borrowing, he pointed out that it has pushed the state's debt to gross state domestic product (GSDP) ratio to over 36 per cent.
In his address, the Governor said that the government would implement The 'Sabarimala Idathavalam' project with the assistance of Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) to provide better facilities for Sabarimala pilgrims to meet their primary requirements of rest and comfort.
Electronic file processing system will be implemented in all the government establishments to ensure timely action and more transparency, he added.
Khan, in his two hour-long speech, criticised the Centre over the raising of the annual borrowing limits of the state.
"Consequent to the strident demand of the states including Kerala, the Union government relented to raise the annual borrowing limit from 3 to 5 per cent of the GSDP.
However, only 0.5 per cent of this additional borrowing limit was unconditional," he said.
He also said the recent policies of the Central government have been retrogressive as far as the co-operative sector is concerned.
Meanwhile, opposition Congress and BJP criticised the second Vijayan government's first policy address. New Leader of Opposition V.D.Satheesan said they are disappointed that there has been nothing with regards to the new policies to be adopted in the wake of the pandemic situation in areas like health, education and disaster management.
"The second wave has hit us very badly and there are reports of a third wave and experts points that it could be the children which could turn the victims. We really expected in the address there would be a new health policy on tackling Covid, but it was not there," he said.
He also pointed out that the last academic year saw students going for online education and given the pandemic situation, this new academic year is also going to be the same like last year.
The BJP alleged that the present policy address by Khan was just the repetition of the previous one.The address also did not have any reference to the preparedness of the state to deal with the third wave of the pandemic, it said.