Opposition bloc turned against Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac and the government for dumping the cardinal recommendations of the Fifth State Finance Commission report and, in effect, choking the local self-governments financially. After raising the banner of protests against the Central Government and grabbing funds sanctioned by the Central Finance Commission for the state.
In reply to the charges, Isaac said: “On the state’s total annual plan outlay of Rs 30,000 crores, the free size after devolving the allocation to local bodies, KSEB etc, is only Rs12,000 crores – Rs13,000 crores. It may go down further if financial discipline is not maintained. The delay in implementation of the State Finance Commission recommendations was prompted by the dire need for closely monitoring the situation,” Thomas Isaac justified.
Earlier in the day, V D Satheesan (Congress) pounced upon the Finance Minister for “mopping up state resources at the expense of local bodies and thus derailing the spirit of devolution of powers”, while speaking on his notice to move an adjournment motion in the Assembly.The entire Opposition was quick to slam the Finance Minister for holding back Plan funds recommended for local bodies since 2016-17, consistently tightening the allocation by 10%, 14%(2017-18) and up to 19% in the current fiscal, even as Isaac maintained that carry forward of spillover developmental works and the ambitious LIFE housing scheme will be allowed. This resulted in a walkout resulted which was joined by former Finance Minister K M Mani and BJP MLA O Rajagopal.
Satheesan pointed out that the extent of crisis in the local bodies could be gauged from the fact that even the entertainment tax and advertisement tax, amounting to Rs 130 crores, is not being released by the state government. Local bodies were asked to collect advance tax on many counts. But the burden of effecting repayment has fallen upon the local bodies itself. “The Finance Minister took all the gains out of the Central Finance Commission award for the state, but is not willing to pass it on to the local bodies.”
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