Kerala's finances not in pink of health: Minister

Thiruvananthapuram, Sep 14 (IANS) Kerala's financial position is "certainly not in the pink of health", admitted state Finance Minister K.M. Mani.

"Kerala's financial position is certainly not in the pink of health, but due to cautious managing of the finances, we are able to go forward. A white paper is not required," Mani told IANS.

The 80-year-old minister said that when he took over as finance minister in May 2011, Kerala along with West Bengal and Punjab was in the category of "debt stressed state".

"The challenge before me was to save the state from going into a debt trap. When we took over, the total funds for the state in the treasury was Rs.1,963.47 crore with a liability of Rs.2,154 crore.

"We not only cleared all that... and in the past two fiscal years, we never had to draw from the 'ways and means' or draw from the overdraft account," Mani said.

The veteran leader, who has presented 11 state budgets in his 46 years as a legislator, said he had to use all his experience to see that the state's finances were channelised in a proper manner for the overall development of Kerala.

"In the fiscal 2010-11, Rs.22,282 crore was used for development expenses and in the next fiscal, it rose to Rs.28,923 crore. For the last fiscal, as per the revised estimates, a record Rs.36,517 crore was spent on development," he said.

No project in the state was subjected to any squeeze due to lack of resources, the minister said.

Also on account of the frequent rise in fuel prices, the state chipped in to ease people's burden to the extent of Rs.900 crore, by foregoing the state's share on taxes on the increased fuel prices, Mani said.

He added the focus of his ministry would be to see that the youth get adequate opportunities.

"We will see that we provide funds for the additional skills acquisition and enhancement programmes, besides promoting self-employment programmes. We have set in place the required mechanism for budding entrepreneurs," Mani said.

He, however, added that the economy was slowing down and on account of that, what the state will get from the centre will also come down.

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