Grant from UAE not a loan, Centre declining it is against policy: Thomas Isaac to TNM

Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac says that if the Centre doesn’t reverse the decision, the state will raise it as a major political issue
Grant from UAE not a loan, Centre declining it is against policy: Thomas Isaac to TNM
Grant from UAE not a loan, Centre declining it is against policy: Thomas Isaac to TNM
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Kerala has shifted focus from rescue and relief to reconstruction in the aftermath of the unprecedented floods that have ravaged the state. At this juncture, the Union government has refused to accept international aid, that includes the aid that the United Arab Emirates has offered Kerala – a sum of Rs 700 crore. In an interview to TNM, Kerala Finance Thomas Isaac has clarified that this is not a loan, but an outright grant that the UAE has offered – and that by declining it, Government of India is going against the Disaster Management Policy of India.

“The Disaster Management Policy of India permits foreign governments voluntarily donating funds, and says that the central government can accept the funds. What the Centre has done is against the policy. The UAE has made an offer, and even before anybody in Kerala could say something – even before the state could respond – the Centre has declined the offer,” Thomas Isaac tells TNM.

Clarifying that this is not a loan, Thomas Isaac says, “The assistance from UAE is an outright grant, not a loan. GoI cannot reject it saying it is a loan.”

“They have done it without even consulting the state government, the Centre took a unilateral decision without any discussion,” he reiterates.

Thomas urges the Centre to give more money if it declines aid from the rest of the world. “If the Centre views accepting foreign aid as an issue of dignity, let the union government give us Rs 700 crore. The Centre is neither giving us money, nor allowing anyone else to do it. What kind of attitude is this?” he asks.

The Kerala Finance Minister further rubbished comparisons with the 2004 Tsunami and the Uttarakhand floods. “At the time of the tsunami, the government took huge loans from multilateral institutions. The comparison with Uttarakhand is also baseless – we should consider UAE connection with Kerala. We have not asked for the money, they have voluntarily come up with the offer. It’s perhaps the first time that a state is getting such an offer,” he says.

When asked if he views the Centre’s stand as political, Isaac says, “We will wait for the Prime Minister’s decision. If it is adverse, we will raise it as a major political issue.”

“We have put forward certain demands for Kerala. It’s true that they can’t give more grants, but let others give so that we can rebuild the state. Secondly, permit us to borrow more, and also permit us to raise revenue by imposing a cess on GST. These are the major issues that Kerala has been raising. In a Federal system the state should have such minimum accessibility,” he says.

When asked about the Singapore government contributing to Chennai during the 2015 floods through the Singapore Red Cross, Thomas Isaac says, “See this may be false prestige. I don’t know what has motivated the union government to do this, so let them rethink it and take a position. We don’t want to aggravate the situation by criticising much. The Chief Minister has said that he will speak to the Prime Minister. Hope the Centre will reverse the stand after that, if not then we will raise it as a major political issue.”

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