Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Resource management

The budget deficit of Rs. 2212.74 crore for the year 2022-23 presented Tuesday by state Finance Minister, Neiphiu Rio, who is also the Chief Minister, is a cause of serious concern for all since it is likely to curtail the infrastructural development in the state to a large extent, and in the process making our state’s economy less competitive. It could push the state more backward than forward as envisioned. Sure, Rio’s budget has accorded top priority for infrastructural development and agri & allied sectors, which is laudable, considering that the state’s strength lies in agriculture, as well as because real economic development of the state can only start from the rural areas. In his budget speech, Rio said with a view to further facilitate credit flow to hard-working farmers and young entrepreneurs, the government intend to introduce the “Chief Minister’s Micro Finance Initiative” during the year. The scheme will make credit more affordable and available to individuals, Self Help Groups and Farmer Producer Organizations. Further in order to do so, government will provide for either subsidy or interest subvention against identified activities in the agriculture & allied sector including for processing units, handicrafts and small-scale manufacturing units. He said additional interest subvention over and above what is being provided in the existing Central Government schemes will be provided. “As a part of this initiative to promote the agri and allied sector, I propose to remove the stamp duty on crop loans to be notified shortly. The selection of the beneficiaries will be through the District Level Selection Committees and wherever required, the Village Councils shall act as the guarantor. The detailed framework of the scheme shall be notified separately. An amount of Rs. 65 crore is earmarked for this scheme,” he said. But, a disconcerting feeling here is the trend of pumping in money without any real direction or without ascertaining whether the funds allocated had reached the target area. Take for instance the much-hyped youth empowerment and their capacity building through various programmes undertaken by the government for the past many years. On paper because of the large allocations by the government to the programme, it has been a resounding success, but on the ground nothing tangible is visible, as can be seen and observed by any tangible passerby. The point is that the competitiveness of a nation or a state depends on a number of criteria – including economic policies, market regulations, technological development, education systems and public institutions, since it influence the level of productivity, and thereby its ability to sustain economic growth over many years. In fact it can be said that Nagaland remains a very competitive economy, considering the number of innovation undertaken by the government, besides the human and natural resources available. But, at the end of the day it all comes down to how you manage these resources. Take the Rs. 151.08 crore earmarked for construction of office buildings or residential quarters for the year 2022-23. Or the chopper service in the state. Sure, the state may be getting maximum benefit through the helicopter service by flying Central ministers and state VIPs to visit interior places cutting both cost and time. But you see, there was a time when the possession of helicopters and aircrafts by state governments was considered a luxury. Chief Ministers using them were derided as “flying maharajas”. The argument against them was that they flew around even as the poor and deprived people in the area under their jurisdiction and whom they claimed to represent were denied basic amenities. This perception may have had some validity at a point in time. The situation has since changed for the better. Most of the states have made enormous economic progress in the intervening period and can afford to buy and maintain faster means of transport for collective welfare. Our state sadly is way behind in terms of development profile. We have to spend every paisa warily. This does not mean, however, that we don’t benefit from the latest technological advances. By all means we must have a fleet of helicopters and planes keeping in view our requirements. But for a state that without fail looks up to the Centre for financial assistance even for minor needs it is totally necessary that we not only observe restraint but also seen to be doing so in our expenses. In this instance also we should be extremely circumspect.