Kerala FM presents Budget; Cess on VAT draws Flak

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Thiruvananthapuram, Mar 6 (UNI) Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Issac today presented a welfare-oriented Budget for 2008-09 in the State Assembly, but a proposal to mobilise Rs 100 crore by imposing one per cent cess on VAT came as a bolt from the blue for those already reeling under a severe price hike.

The Rs 3,367 crore deficit Budget, presented in the State Assembly, envisages new schemes worth Rs 305.78 crore and concessions worth Rs 25.12 crore. It also provides an additional revenue mobilisation of Rs 188 crore.

While the old age pension will be increased to Rs 250 a month, all other welfare pensions for deprived sections would be hiked to Rs 200.

A sum of Rs 14 crore has been set apart for implementing schemes based on the Sachar Committee Report for the uplift of the Muslims.

An agriculture price stabilisation fund, welfare fund for farmers, debt relief scheme worth Rs 20 crore for farmers, a pilot Rs two meal project, health insurance scheme for all BPL families and setting of a gender board are some of the welfare and social security schemes announced.

However, a proposal to introduce one per cent cess on VAT to mobilise an additional Rs 100 crore drew flak from the Opposition and trading community who demanded its withdrawal.

Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy alleged it will be an additional burden on the common man who was already reeling under a severe price hike of essential commodities.

The Budget also failed to come out with any measures to contain the increase in prices, he alleged.

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