Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac has sought to give relief to the poor by making junk food gaining popularity among the rich costly. The move is perhaps a first of its kind move, targeting an additional revenue of Rs 10 crore.
The revised budget for 2016-17, presented by Isaac in the Assembly on Friday, has tried to raise resources for various sops he has announced for the poor by imposing 14.5 per cent tax on food articles such as burgers, pizzas, sandwiches and pasta, 5 percent tax on packaged wheat products, basmati rice and coconut oil.
The minister has also taxed the affluent sections further by imposing 20 percent tax on disposable tumblers made of plastic, a green tax on vehicles which are over 10 years old and two per cent tax on textiles. The additional tax measures are expected to net Rs 805 crore a year.
This will be mostly used for enhancing all social welfare pensions to Rs 1,000 a month, new pensions to labourers and transgenders above the age of 60, a comprehensive health insurance scheme to make treatment for major ailments such as cancer, cardiac diseases, stroke and kidney diseases completely free for the poorest section of the population etc.
The minister, who inherited an empty coffer, has tried to raise resources outside the budgetary framework for funding infrastructure projects. The budget has proposed a Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIFB) for the purpose. Isaac said that it would make use of SEBI and RBI approved schemes.
The finance minister hopes to attract Rs1 lakh crore investments in various sectors in the state in the next five years through this. He has announced a Rs 12,000-crore package to fight economic slowdown by taking up major infrastructure projects this year.
He has proposed massive deployment of resources to ensure value addition in agriculture through the establishment of a string of agro-parks at an estimated outlay of Rs 500 crore. It has also proposed a Rs 5100 crore package over the next five years for setting up multipurpose industrial zones, adoption of soil conservation as a key activity under MGNREGA, greater mechanisation of the coir industry and Rs.1325 crore to promote IT Industry.