Time for Nagas to take steps towards self-sufficiency — Rio
“Hornbill Festival has emerged as an engine of economic growth and opportunity for our local entrepreneurs”
Kohima, Feb. 15 (EMN): Considering the extent of budget reductions of the state’s share at the Centre, Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio has urged the people of Nagaland to start taking steps towards self-sufficiency.
“It is clear that we are not going to get everything paid by the central government, and there is no guarantee that we will continue to get what has been budgeted,” Rio said in his concluding remarks to the budget debate on the last day of the 13th Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA) in Kohima on Saturday.
Pressing on the importance of educating people about the economic condition of the state and country in general, he said, “It is time we start taking steps towards self-sufficiency no matter how small it may be. As long as we are going forward, we will reach there someday.”
While saying that Nagaland pays the least amount of taxes among all states in the country, he also pointed out that one “cannot expect the central government to pay for everything we spend”. If Nagas are to have such a mindset, “we would not be fit to have a state” because no government can run without funds, he said.
‘Any government has to bear its official responsibilities and duties including levy and collection of taxes. All civilised societies run on the revenues generated through taxes – both on goods and the people. We are no exception,’ Rio added.
He clarified that the reduction in the share of taxes by the central government is not an isolated problem. All states, including the north-eastern states, are likely to experience increase in their levels of deficit to the extent of reductions. The entire country is facing a difficult period financially and economically, Rio iterated and added that the “situation is beyond our control”.
Nagaland is a “resource-starved” state, completely dependent on central transfers. Therefore, any reduction in transfers to the state will increase deficit while reducing the funds available for developmental activities, he said.
Taking into account the economic condition, Rio said the government has decided to explore all possible avenues that are available to raise more revenue. Accordingly, he said to have started the process of putting in place tax measures, and other measures are being examined.
Agri and allied sector contribute most to GSDP
The chief minister, who also presented brief facts on Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP), said that the Agri and allied sector contribute the largest component at 33% to the GSDP. It is growing at a steady rate of 12%. The sector underwent a negative growth during 2015-16 and 2016-17 due to decline in livestock, and mining and quarrying sector. The mining sector continued to witness negative growth up to 2017-18, Rio said.
The chief minister admitted to tight resource position in the Agri-allied sector. However, he assured that the sector receives the maximum funds under centrally sponsored schemes, and is well placed to fully carry out the desired activities.
12% growth in secondary, tertiary sectors
The secondary sector comprising activities like food-processing, manufacturing, energy production, hotels and restaurants, transport and communication contributes about 12% to GSDP. It is showing an average annual growth of 12%, he said. ‘It is most likely on account of the Hornbill Festival and the growing number of tourists visiting the state. An independent survey conducted after the recently concluded Hornbill Festival estimated that the food and local services alone generated local revenues of more than INR 75 crore’.
He was confident that this sector would continue to grow more in the coming years.
The chief minister was of the opinion that tourism sector is beginning to show its true potential to generate economic growth. “Hornbill Festival has emerged as an engine of economic growth and opportunity for our local entrepreneurs”, he said.
“Nagas are endowed with natural aptitude for music. If we cannot build our economy on the skills and talents that nature has endowed us with, do you mean to say that we should give up what we are good at and imitate what others do?” Rio asked.
The tertiary sector comprised of telecommunications, hospitality, tourism, mass media, healthcare, information technology, retail sales, banking and insurance etc., contributes the largest to the GSDP of the state. This sector is also showing an average annual growth of about 12%, Rio pointed out.
In per capita income, as per 2017-18 figures, Nagaland was ranked 23 out of 33 states and Union Territories. Despite the reasonably good figures, much of the income accumulates from salaries of government servants, he added.
In the industrial sector, the Start-up Nagaland Team was said to have taken an intensive entrepreneurship capacity building in the state for furniture and food processing clusters and infrastructure development. The department of Employment, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship is taking up capacity building activities and other skilling activities in electrical, masonry, plumbing and carpentry and after completion of the training, providing seed money to the candidates to take up their own business enterprises, Rio said.
He felt that departments need to “reorient their way of thinking and give up the traditional habit of spending their plan allocations for civil constructions”. He went on to add that it is time to focus on building up the capacities of respective sectors.
Rio acknowledged the argument raised by opposition members that the budget has not covered most of the departments. He said to have chosen to focus more on “innovative initiatives and programmes”. However, this does not imply that the government has been inactive. He said that during the last 10 months, the government has taken many new innovative steps in various sectors. In addition, the financial details are reflected in the budget documents in sufficient detail, he added.
INR 64.10 cr. on govt. vehicles
The chief minister said that the expenditure on government-registered vehicles in a financial year was INR 64.10 crore. In order to cut down the expenditure and rationalise the manner of allotment of vehicles to government servants, the chief secretary has been entrusted to take measures, he pointed out.
‘The government will also be taking austerity measures. However, reducing of expenditure cannot be unlimited. There is a minimum level of fund requirement beyond which funds that cannot be reduced, otherwise departments will be unable to function properly. Accordingly, we will also examine areas where efficiency can be enhanced in collection of government revenue’, Rio added.
Nagaland House, Kolkata: CS to file eviction suit
Rio also clarified on the issue of Nagaland House Commercial Complex in Kolkata, stating that the High Court of Kolkata has in GA No. 486 of 2018 with CS No. 26 of 2018 dated November 27,2019 in its interim order directed, inter alia that “In such circumstances, it would be appropriate to observe that the order dated May 14, 2018 will not prevent the defendant/respondent (government of Nagaland) from evicting the plaintiff/petitioner from the suit property, in accordance with law”.
Accordingly, the cabinet on February 5, 2020 has authorised the chief secretary to file eviction suit against the tenant CEEPL. A suit has been prepared under the guidance of advocate general, Nagaland, which is in the process of being filed, it was informed.
Rio appreciated the opposition members for their constructive criticisms, that were made for the welfare of the state during the seven-day 13th NLA.
“An alert opposition that highlights the shortcomings of the government and points out its mistakes ensures better performance and delivery of the treasury. Both the benches are accountable to the people, and efficient performance on our part will ensure better delivery and good governance,” he said.
“The government and the entire machinery have taken serious note of all the suggestions and have taken the constructive criticisms in a positive manner,” he said and assured to ‘seriously follow up the concerns raised by the opposition members’.
Opposition leader TR Zeliang expressed satisfaction at the assurance given by the treasury bench and withdrew all the cut motions to demands for grants, which was moved by the opposition members.