Kerala is all set to stake its claims before the 15th Finance Commission, which is visiting the State from May 28 to 31. The visit assumes greater importance owing to the differences expressed by the State to the terms of reference of the commission and the lead it took to mobilise public opinion against it.
The commission, led by its chairman N.K. Singh and members Shaktikanta Das, Anoop Singh, Ashok Lahiri, Ramesh Chand and secretary Arvind Mehta will hold discussions with the Chief Minister, Ministers and other officials of the State, which will the first destination of the commission in South India.
Detailed presentations will be made on the finances of the State government. The commission will also meet leaders of various political parties, representatives of trade and industry. There will also be an interactive session with representatives of urban local bodies and panchayats.
An official statement said here that the Finance Commission will assess the state of the finances of Kerala and the progress made in socio-economic field. Ahead of this visit, the commission held discussions with the Accountant General of Kerala in New Delhi on the various aspects of Kerala’s financial situation.
The official statement, while giving a brief overview of the State’s GDP growth, referred to Kerala’s high wages which had a bearing on cultivation and other economic activities, its over dependence on the service sector in the absence of substantive pick up in agriculture and manufacturing, and the declining trend in foreign remittances, which, it said, continued to sustain its economy, but has weakened trade, construction and real estate sectors
The social security spending of the State government on account of an ageing population will be a matter of concern. Kerala’s literacy level is the highest amongst all the States at 94% of the population, but its learning outcome is not commensurate, the statement said.
In the transport sector, Kerala was somewhat different from the other South Indian states because of the preponderance of the private stage carriages which accounted for three-fourths of the total number compared to Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
The Finance Commission needs to make an in-depth study of the recent developments and future possibilities of economic growth and development of Kerala, based on its meetings and interactions. The mainstream political parties are reportedly on the job to prepare separate memorandums to be submitted to the commission.