Kerala cashes in on Centre-sponsored benefits

Written by M Sarita Varma | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: Nov 20 2009, 04:30am hrs
Kerala has managed to wrench itself away from a distress cycle of low utilisation in centrally sponsored schemes in the 11th Plan, notching about 85-90% spending in the mid-Plan juncture.

However, the lag in infrastructure development through schemes such as JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission) and World Bank-backed KSTP (Kerala State Transport Project) is still under critical monitoring. In Sarva Shiksha Abhyan (SSA), the utilisation in the two-and-a-half year period has been 130%, inclusive of the unspent fund-pool in the previous years, says chief minister VS Achuthanandan.

A mid-term appraisal by state planning board also sees comfort in the escalation in the Plan size. Compared to its plan outlay of Rs 20,588.99 crore ( at current prices) during 10th Plan, the State has pitched a jumbo outlay of Rs 40,422 crore (at current prices) during the 11th Plan. This would mean that even if the expenditure-outlay ratio remained as low as 80%, atleast 80% perk-up is likely in current price expenditure. There is a qualitative change in the expenditure pattern, beyond the numbers, said Kerala Planning Board vice-chairman Prabhat Patnaik. Thus, even a Rs 142 crore spending in NREG (National Rural Employment Guarantee) is justifiable for the State, since it is a demand-driven programmme."

In the first two years, the plan utilisation was 80% and 81.9% respectively. In the current fiscal, in the period upto September, the utilisation was barely 20.3%. From last year, State Planning Board had clamped quarterly targets-as in a company-in plan implementation to keep track of delays. "In the current year, the first and second quarter targets were more or less met, but third quarter was not up to the mark," says State finance minister TM Thomas Isaac. This is attributed to the standstill in administrative sanctions to public work due to Lok Sabha Election and bypolls.