Vijayan hopeful of centre changing mind on foreign aid for Kerala
The state is approaching the sensitive issue of foreign aid with a positive attitude, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said
New Delhi: Kerala is hopeful that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government at the centre will let it accept aid from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) despite the central government’s polite turning down of foreign aid for the flood-ravaged state.
The state is approaching the sensitive issue of foreign aid with a positive attitude, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said.
“We have told the public all that we know about the offers made to Kerala. It is for the central government to take a decision on it. We are hopeful that the central government would take a positive stance on this matter,” Vijayan said.
The question of foreign aid to Kerala, which is recovering from its worst floods in a century, became a subject of debate after Vijayan disclosed that he has been informed by an NRI businessman about the offer from the UAE.
Modi subsequently thanked Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, for his offer to help but made no mention of the aid. A spokesperson for the external affairs ministry then explained that the government is committed to meeting requirements for relief and rehabilitation through its own resources.
However, a PTI report on Thursday quoted Vijayan as telling a special session of the assembly that the state government is moving toward taking legal steps to access the offers of assistance pouring in from different parts of the world.
Kerala finance minister Thomas Isaac told Mint that financial support from the central government was not up to the expected levels. “The central government is too proud to accept offers from countries that want to help Kerala. Well and good. We appreciate that position. But then give us the funds,” said Isaac.
Vijayan said in the email interview to Mint that the damage caused by floods to Kerala, including loss of homes, crops and utilities, will far exceed the state’s annual plan spending. However, he said, a comeback story will be scripted leveraging environmentally friendly industries and with a focus on human development. Kerala’s annual plan for FY19, including ₹8,097 crore of centrally sponsored schemes, is over ₹37,200 crore.
The damage floods caused to the state economy is immense.
“Even preliminary estimates count a loss of ₹20,000 crore only for major sectors. When we take into account the loss on houses, roads, buildings, bridges, crops, cattle stock, electricity installations and water supply plants etc., the loss would exceed the size of state’s annual plan. The actual loss could be assessed only when water recedes fully,” the chief minister said.
Floods also impacted the festival season demand for goods and services, dealing a blow to businesses. “The tragedy also coincided with Onam, which is normally a peak time for the businesses in the state. It is also probable that the demand has taken a hit in the short-term,” Vijayan said. According to industry estimates, demand for goods and services in the next three months will fall by about half in the next three months compared to the same time last year, Mint reported on 19 August.
The state administration will promote environmentally benign industries such as IT, hardware and services. Vijayan said the focus will remain on human development and that the state’s belief in the recovery plan is not rooted in just “naïve optimism.”
“Kerala has always followed an alternative path of development, one which has its focus on people. This inclusive model has helped the state in attaining high levels of human development, which is at par with the developed world. Our core infrastructure and key resources are our people. And they will power Kerala’s journey to recovery,” the chief minister said.
Vijayan said Kerala has a thriving IT business ecosystem, a flourishing startup culture and it is fast becoming a hub for digital innovators. “We are expecting more growth in these sectors. We are not just focused on IT, we are also seeing a resurgence in hardware industries,” he said.
“Kerala will bounce back in record time. The survival was nothing short of a miracle, the recovery is not going to be anything less either. The world is about to witness one of the greatest comeback stories ever,” said Vijayan.
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