Cong, BJP slam LDF budget

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Thiruvananthapuram, Jun 4 (PTI) The Congress in Kerala on Friday slammed the budget presented by State Finance Minister K N Balagopal,saying his speech was filled with political comments, while the BJP termed it as a disappointment.

Balagopal today presented the first budget of the second Pinarayi Vijayan government in which he earmarked Rs 1,500 crore for providing free vaccination to all aged above 18 years and purchasing allied equipment for the inoculation drive, a proclaimed policy of the Left government.

The minister also announced a COVID revival package of Rs 20,000 crore.

'Our finance minister has included political comments in his budgetspeech.Both the policy address and the budget speech has become a political stunt.Budget is the annual financial statement,' leader of the opposition in the state assembly, V D Satheesan (Cong) said.

'We are of the opinion that the sanctity was lost when the minister included political statements in his speech,' he said.

BJP state chief K Surendran termed the budget as a disappointment and said the state government was renaming and implementing the central projects.

'The financial assistance of Rs 20,000 crore package which was announced in the last year's budget was repeated this time.....the finance minister should explain how much money was spent for what purpose from that package,' Surendran said.

He told the media that the Karnataka government has deposited money directly into the account of auto drivers, labourers and wayside vendors but the Kerala government has not taken any step in that direction.

'When other states are effectively engaged in tax collection, no steps have been taken by the Kerala government,' Surendran added.

The Cochin Chamber of Commerce welcomed the setting up of a Rs 100 crore venture capital fund announced in the state budget.

'FM in his speech has said that due to the present difficult times, no new taxes have been imposed and focus would be on tax compliance.We welcome this move,' Cochin Chamber of Commerce president Harikumar said.

Lulu group chairman M A Yusuf Ali said the budget contains welfare and development aspects and the special focuson agriculture, coastal area, tourism and education along with no new taxes 'will instill hope in the minds of people.' 'The second COVID-19 package is a realistic one considering the concerns faced by the health and economy sectors of the state due to the pandemic.The directions to strengthen the health sector are aimed at the welfare of the future generation,' Ali said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Balagopal, who met the media after the budget presentation, said nothing has changed from the last budget.

'Those budget proposals will continue.We have made some addition to that considering the COVID-19 situation and to boost the economy of the state.Health is our priority, then food.After that we need to revive our economy and for that we need more jobs.' 'In order to achieve that, our aim is to give thrust to the agriculture, industries, tourism, IT, knowledge economy sectors,' Balagopal said.

He said many foreign countries have vaccinated their people and their economies are open.

'If people are vaccinated, tourists will show interest in visiting our state.If all are vaccinated at the earliest, we can revive our economy.For that purpose we have allocated Rs 1,000 crore for vaccines and Rs 500 crore for related purposes,' he added.PTI RRT BN BALA BN BALA