Let’s look beyond pandemic for growth, says Nagaland Chief Minister
Kohima, Aug. 5 (EMN): Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio said that despite the Covid-19 pandemic being highly disruptive and challenging, it was vital to look beyond the pandemic to a future with high rates of sustained economic growth and better income levels for citizens.
At the same time, he asserted that it was equally important to continue saving lives as a main focus. “We have to continue moving forward with twin main focus – saving livelihoods as well as lives, till the time the pandemic is behind us,” he said.
Rio was presenting a Covid-19 roadmap for economic activities (2020-21 and 2021-22) during the second and final day of the 8th session of the 13th Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA) on Thursday.
Affirming that lockdowns and restrictions had led to a sharp impact on economic activities across the globe, he said Nagaland was also not spared, informing that from 7.43% growth during 2019-20, the state’s economy was anticipated to register a negative growth of -5.59 % (advanced estimate) during 2020-21.
‘During the same period (2020-21), the Indian economy is estimated to register a negative growth rate of -7.3 %. In absolute terms, the contraction in the state economy is anticipated to the tune of INR 1,013.11 crore during 2020-21,’ he added.
Under Industries and Commerce, he informed that about 500 youth/artisans were to be trained annually under common facility centres in six cane, bamboo and wood-based handicraft clusters, adding that Employment, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship department had implemented the NEC scheme through convergence with Agriculture department and NSRLM.
Air cargo services had started on March 2 this year with a view to avoid supply-chain and logistical disruptions by integrating with national and global supply chains, and allow agricultural producers to fetch a higher value for their produce.
A total of 1293 loans of INR 10,000 per person had been sanctioned under the PM Street Vendor’s Atma Nirbhar Nidhi Scheme, Rio informed.
A “Mobile Skill Morung”, a fully equipped training workshop on wheels, was launched to travel across the state to impart training in various job roles, he apprised the House, adding that in the coming months, they would provide training and basic hand tools to the rural youth as per demand for skills in the construction and agriculture sector, etc. in skills like electrician, carpentry, masonry, plumbing and mushroom growing.
“It may also be noted that in 2021, the state plan size was INR 639 crore on which a pro rata cut of 15% was applied, reducing the plan size to further INR 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 INR 700 crore which represents an increase of over 22% over the revised state plan outlay of last year,” he stated.
“There is a need to continue leveraging information technology to provide services, removing human interface, to the citizens of the state,” he maintained, adding that around 30 online services under the e-district project had been enabled and that it would be put into service for the benefits of citizens.
He also put on record that efforts were also being made to encourage start-ups for entrepreneurs and for that, the Software Technology Park at Kohima was ready in all aspects for the youth to utilise for software development and facilitate export of IT software.
“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. We will continue to facilitate e-services and provide the required nudges for these to be lasting adaptations,” he said.
“World over, the travel and hospitality industry has been badly bruised by the pandemic and that the state has no exception,” he stated while expressing hope that the upcoming Hornbill Festival would reinvigorate the sector.
Rio asserted that investing in the healthcare infrastructure and human resources should continue, maintaining that they had improved testing capacity, oxygen bed and ICU bed capacity while planning to further strengthen ICUs, hospital beds and other infrastructure during the coming year.
“This will have the twin impacts of being ready for any future pandemic as well as helping the economy grow,” he said.
“With the interventions already taken by the government, creating the infrastructure and harnessing the skills of our people and our resources, we hope for a sustained economic growth of more than 10% per annum during the remaining part of the year as well as the coming year,” he added.
Sazo urges govt. to assist those rendered jobless
NPF legislator Chotisuh Sazo stated that irrespective of Covid-19 infection rate, economic recovery was a “forward-looking agenda” for the welfare of every country, while maintaining that with a growth-less economy, it would be impossible to address various challenges in the state.
He highlighted how contractors had suffered as skilled labourers returned to their respective homes due to Covid-19 issue, which had adversely affected the progress of construction works.
Sazo said that self-employed entrepreneurs had undergone tremendous hardships due to lockdown and many could not run their business activities for almost 9-10 months. He also maintained that since the onset of the pandemic, entrepreneurs had to pay their rent as well as salary of their employees while accumulating huge debts, adding woes to their problems.
Expressing concern over prices of essential commodities including construction materials, he said: “Even though the government had rolled back Covid cess, the price rise has not rolled back.”
The legislator also mentioned that many individuals who had been studying and working in different parts of the country had to return to the state after the second wave of the pandemic created havoc across the country again.
However, every time such returnees come home, they had to pay for undergoing Covid-19 test, he said while informing how private hospitals charge about INR 2,500 per test compared to INR 1,500 in government hospitals.
Sazo also asserted that the government had given only a meagre amount of financial aid to those returnees, not sufficient to sustain their livelihood during the pandemic.
He also highlighted how private entrepreneurs and employees, shopkeepers and daily wagers could not earn enough to maintain their livelihood as well as pay house rents.
“They are facing difficulties to pay the school and college fees and admission for their children,” he said.
He continued that many youths were also rendered jobless after returning home from other parts of the country, while adding that there was ‘very less opportunity within the state to employ them, which became a burden to many parents’.
Besides Covid-19, the drought-like situation and pest infestation has challenged food security, he said while stressing on the need to create an environment and structure that would enable the economy to flourish.
Several other legislators also expressed serious concern over the economic downturn and suggested remedial steps to revive the state economy.