KOHIMA, AUGUST 5: Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio today said the COVID-19 pandemic has been highly disruptive and challenging to the extent of decreasing the State’s economy to the tune of Rs.1013.11 crore during 2020-21.
He said this while making the concluding remarks in the State Assembly on the discussion on urgent public importance pertaining to Post COVID-19 economic recovery of the State initiated by Minister for Planning & Coordination, Land Revenue and Parliamentary Affairs, Neiba Kronu here today.
“COVID-19 pandemic has been highly disruptive and challenging, and has impacted us in many ways but we have to look beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, to a future with high rates of sustained economic growth and better income levels for our citizens”, he said.
We have to continue moving forward with twin main focus – saving livelihoods as well as lives, till the time the pandemics are behind us, he said.
Lockdowns and restrictions have led to a sharp impact on economic activities at the global and national level and the State has also not been spared, he said.
“From 7.43% growth during 2019-20, the State’s economy is anticipated to register a negative growth of -5.59% (Advanced Estimate) during 2020-21. In absolute terms, the contraction in the State economy is anticipated to the tune of Rs.1013.11 crore during 2020-21”, projected Rio.
Post the first wave of COVID-19, in order to revive the economy and to bring about self sufficiency specially in the Agri and allied sectors and to provide livelihood options to the people adversely affected by the pandemic, a Strategic Committee for Economic Affairs for Nagaland, headed by Chief Minister, was constituted which asked a Core Group to work out strategies and action plan for strengthening the State’s economy, he said.
The strategy focused on strengthening the Agri and allied sector, skills and service sector and trade and commerce with 4 key objectives namely self reliance, re-skilling, gainful employment and facilitation was developed with short term and long term goals, he said.
Rio informed the House that during the financial year 2020-21, a proposal entitled “Road Map for Economic Development of Nagaland post COVID lockdown” comprising 23 projects amounting to Rs. 8062.64 lakh was submitted to NEC.
Out of these, NEC has approved 12 numbers of projects worth Rs. 3117.00 lakh, he said, adding that NEC has sanctioned all the projects and also released a total of Rs. 764.00 lakh as 1st Installment.
During the second wave of COVID-19, which impacted in the month of April 2021, Nagaland was again faced with the challenge of balancing the need of how to keep the economy going while at the same time shutting it down to protect our citizens from COVID.
A conscious effort has been made that as far as possible the economic activity should not suffer, he said.
Agriculture and allied activities continue to be the main source of livelihood for the rural people of the State contributing more than 70% to Nagaland’s economy, he said.
Therefore, while the Government imposed restrictions, agriculture and allied activities and construction related activities have been allowed to continue even during the peak of the pandemic of the second wave, with adequate safeguards, he said.
He said with a view to avoid supply-chain and logistical disruptions by integrating with national and global supply chains, and allow Naga agricultural producers to fetch a higher value for their produce, Air Cargo services have been started with effect from March 2.
The Chief Minister noted that in 2021 the State Plan size was Rs.639 crore on which a pro rata cut of 15% was applied reducing the plan size to further 572 crore.
However, keeping in view the need to give a boost to developmental activities, the State plan size for the current financial year has been enhanced to 700 crore which represents an increase of over 22% over the revised State Plan outlay of last year.
Saying that the Government is the State’s largest employer, he said in addition to the more than 500 appointments that were made in the Health & Family Welfare Department during the last 9 months, recently we have allowed for filling up of 1517 posts bellowing to Group A, B, C and D Government employees.
The expected outflow of Rs. 56.85 crore per annum on account of the salary disbursements will have a positive economic impact on the general economy, he said.
In this, Rio, while lamenting that Nagas are yet to develop the work culture, cited that non-Nagas come and get employed in the State, but the locals call themselves unemployed. “It is artificial and we need to do all kinds of work”, said Rio.
The Nagaland State Advanced Enterprise Architecture (NSAEA) project is being set up to integrate all Government Departments and citizens services under one platform and once it is in place the State will be as advanced as any other State in India in so far as information technology is concerned, he said.
“We are happy to see that traditional retail stores are embracing e-commerce, which will reduce the impact of any future lockdowns on account of pandemic surges”, he said.
We will continue to facilitate e-services and provide the required nudges for these to be lasting adaptations.
Hopefully, we shall be having the Hornbill festival this year, which would reinvigorate the sector, he said.
Vaccine acceptance is increasing, and in Nagaland also 50% of the eligible population has received at least one dose of vaccine, he said.
Nonetheless, Rio said the State has to be prepared in all respects for any future COVID surges.
Earlier, initiating the discussion Minister Kronu said “we talk too much about political issues and forget the economic issues and our survival”.
It is time for us to see and study what we can give to the outside world, he said.
“Our land is so fertile and anything can grow. We have forest, water with very good rainfall to do anything throughout the year”, he said while stressing on the need to focus on organic agricultural crops and fruit-trees and also low volume with high value crops.
He also said that the oil issue needs to be explored as Assam is already extracting from their side while Nagas here are quarreling and unable to explore the minerals.
NPF MLA Kuzholuzo Nienu expressed concern over the thin attendance of the AHoDs and HoDs during such important discussions being carried out by legislators. The Departments are the implementers of the decisions taken up by the House, he said while requesting the Chief Minister to direct departmental heads to attend the Assembly sessions.
Chief Minister Rio agreeing to the observation of MLA NIenu said in such discussions all the AHoDs, HoD particularly from agri & allied sector should be present.
MLA Nienu expressed that the economy is very important but more important is saving lives by containing the virus.
Economy is all about being self-sustenance, he said, adding that the COVID situation has taught much about not depending on others.
COVID for the State of Nagaland is a blessing in disguise as health facilities had been lacking in many aspects but it has improved to a great extent since the pandemic, he said.
Nonetheless, Nienu said “We must realise that COVID-19 is here to stay with us for very long time and so we must learn how to adjust and live with COVID like any other disease without discrimination like HIV/AIDS, Cancer of TB”.
He also stressed on dissemination of information to the grassroots level.
In this, Nienu suggested creation of separate cells to tackle COVID situations and also special funds earmarked.
Nienu further requested the Government to have sympathy towards the COVID deaths by extending financial support to the family.
Further, Nienu said that lockdown is not the solution to the pandemic but it will create more problems.
MLA Chotisuh Sazo, saying that COVID cases in Nagaland has been increasing and it is not easy to control, asked the Government to take effective measures to contain the spread and improve the recovery rate.
He highlighted that unlike Government employees, people in the grassroots level including contractors, skilled labourers, entrepreneurs and farmers are suffering in numerous ways. He also said that prices of essential commodities and construction materials have shot up with COVID cess imposed by the Government. Though the Government has rolled back COVID-19 cess on fuel, prices of commodities have not come down, he said.
He also said COVID-19 testing costs are very high hence many people don’t come forward to test and are becoming unknown spreaders of the virus. Therefore, he asked the Government to arrange facilities for free testing for all eligible citizens.
Expressing that special emphasis needs to be given on agricultural activities to revive the economy of the State, Sazo suggested conducting skill development of local people, identifying the real self entrepreneurs, including butchers, cobblers, daily wage earners, auto mobile workers, etc., besides the Government extending compensation.
He also urged the Government to reduce prices of petrol & diesel, schools/college fees and also increase rice allocation to all the villages.
Asking for providing facilities for agricultural & allied activities, he said the Government should provide interest free loans to farmers and entrepreneurs, free seeds as per seasons, machinery with subsidized rates, piglets, chicken and fish fingerlings while also reviving the horticulture, agriculture and veterinary farms.
Minister for Agriculture G Kaito Aye, Minister for Soil & Water Conservation and Geology Mining Kashiho Santam and Advisor for Industries & Commerce Imnatiba also informed on the activities of the respective Departments towards economic uplift of the State post COVID-19 pandemic.
(Page News Service)