New Delhi : The Left administration in Kerala has asserted its autonomy in economic policies despite being under a central government that follows "infructuous" neo-liberal policies, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) mouthpiece has said.
In an article in the latest issue of People's Democracy, state planning board vice chairman Prabhat Patnaik said the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government exercised economic autonomy instead of accepting whatever conditions are laid down by capitalists.
The V.S. Achuthanandan-led government has just completed one year in office.
Saying what the Kerala government had followed was "completely different from the common-trodden path of any state government", Patnaik elaborated that this was so in three major areas — dealing with agrarian crisis, the autonomy of the state government vis-Ã -vis the private sector and fiscal policy.
"Instead of gratefully accepting whatever conditions are laid down by capitalists for setting up projects in the state, the LDF government has asserted its autonomy by fixing a suitably high 'reservation price' below which it would not go in all such negotiations," he said.
Patnaik said: "When the national government is pursuing neo-liberal policies, the scope for state governments to do something different is limited. Even so, state governments do have options; and it is by no means inevitable that the rejection of neo-liberal policies which the people have voiced systematically in every election should always remain infructuous."
Patnaik pointed out that the Left government had renegotiated a deal on terms far more favourable to the state – including 26 percent equity in the company developing Smart City, an Internet city project in Kochi being set up by a Dubai-based group.
He also referred to the government's decision to demolish illegal constructions in encroached areas of tourist destination Munnar.
He claimed that the government's approach had been "to defend, protect and nurture peasant production".
According to Patnaik, the Agriculturists' Debt Relief Commission set up by the government is unique as it, "apart from negotiating with institutional credit agencies for debt relief to peasants, will also arbitrate on a case-by-case basis on the debt owed to private moneylenders, and will, in the case of destitute peasants, recommend the takeover of debt by the state government".
Criticising the fiscal policy followed by the former Congress-led United Democratic Front government, Patnaik said the LDF government had "gone in for substantial additional resource mobilisation in the 2007-08 budget, and for significantly stepped-up public expenditure".
He said the 11th Five Year Plan for the state had launched a set of flagship programmes in the health and educational sectors.
"The plethora of powerful forces hostile to an alternative trajectory has not disappeared. It is biding its time to trip up the state government, to impose its 'development agenda' upon it, to coerce it and entice it in a myriad ways to drop its own pro-people agenda and go in for 'prestige projects' that would make headline news," he said in the article.