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Cusat to get Rs. 4 crores

By Our Staff Reporter

KOCHI, JAN. 23. The Rs. 751.34-crore deficit budget presented by the Minister for Finance, K. Sankaranarayanan, has disappointed industrial experts in Kochi.

According to Sukumaran Nair, former chairman of the Institution of Engineers India, the budget has neglected Kochi almost totally by ignoring areas such as water supply, solid waste management, road rubberisation, etc. There was no gain for the industry, he said. At least some concession should have been given in taxes on fuel oil, he added.

However, the IT industry here has something to cheer about. Besides the Rs. 20 crores set apart for the proposed IT Park in Kochi, an IT Corridor in Thiruvananthapuram, and for expanding the Technopark at Kariyavattom, the Government today announced an additional Rs. 10 crores for these projects.

Even though Kochi was looking forward to a quantum jump in allocation for development of infrastructure, particularly of roads and bridges, the proposed Pullepady-Thammanam Road connecting the Airport-Seaport Highway, is the only project for which the Government has earmarked Rs. 2 crores.

The budget has benefited the Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC), which is to build two bulk carrier barges at a cost of Rs. 3 crores each, by availing of a 30 per cent subsidy for vessel-building from the Central Government. Catamaran services connecting Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode would commence during 2004-2005.

Kochi's premier educational institution, Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat), will get Rs. 4 crores. This, according to members of the academic community, is not a big contribution compared to the Rs. 23 crores set apart for University of Kerala, Mahatma Gandhi University, Sri Sankaracharya University, Calicut University and Kannur University.

The Finance Minister, in his Budget speech, has proposed a special package for the three music colleges, including the RLV College of Music, Thripunithura. An expert group is being set up to study its problems. Though Rs. 75 lakhs has been set apart for the development of the music colleges, the Minister has promised to meet any additional requirement of funds.

As much as Rs. 50 crores has been provided for the Muvattupuzha Valley irrigation project, which is slated to be commissioned next year. The budgetary allocation for the Edamalayar irrigation project is Rs. 8.4 crores. This project is also scheduled to be commissioned next year.

Industry sources said that the budget has given tourism its due. However, hoteliers are of the opinion that reduction of luxury tax from 15 per cent to 10 per cent on non-airconditioned rooms with a tariff of over Rs. 500, would not be a popular move. Not many would benefit from this, they said.

At the same time, slapping of a four per cent luxury tax on house boats would make this particular segment of tourism dearer. It is also aimed at restricting the unchecked growth of cheap, sub-standard tourism promoters.

According to Prabhat Varma, general manager of Taj Malabar, the Government has done well by giving a thrust to infrastructure development and in marketing Kerala. The sustenance of marketing is the key to growth, he said.

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