Rio presents tax-free, deficit budget; stresses on start-ups
Eastern Mirror Desk
Dimapur, Feb. 25: Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, who also holds the Finance portfolio, presented a tax-free deficit estimated (accumulated negative) budget of INR 1,611.98 cr. for the year 2019-20, during the ongoing third session of the 13th Nagaland Legislative Assembly in Kohima on Monday. It focuses on encouraging start-ups and skill development to generate jobs in the state.
While tabling the budget, the chief minister said that current year’s transaction is estimated to result in a positive balance of INR 49.70 cr. “However, because of the negative opening balance of INR 1,661.68 cr., the year 2019-20 is estimated to close with negative balance of INR 1,611.98 cr.,” he said.
The 2019-20 budget has allocated INR 112.74 cr. to the social sector, which constitutes 18.51% of the total developmental outlay under state resources (untied), according to Rio. This, he said, marks an increase of 1.06% over previous year’s allocation.
The chief minister said that prior to the introduction of GST in July, 2017, Nagaland’s tax revenue stood at INR 510.76 cr., which is 19.60% over the previous year. “After introduction of GST, tax revenue has increased to INR 638.29 cr. during 2017-18, a growth of 25% over the previous year. The estimated target for 2018-19 (RE) is INR 711.05 cr., a growth of 11.4% over the previous year. For the year 2019-20, we are estimating a growth of 9.72% over 2018-19.”
Start-up policy framed
According to Rio, the Nagaland start-up policy has been formed with the vision of building Nagaland as a model start-up leader in the region. “This policy will create a culture of entrepreneurship, promote creativity and innovation among the youth, assist them in building up successful start-up companies, become job creators and contribute in building a healthy and sustainable economy for our state.”
He said that eligible start-ups will get concessions such as GST reimbursement for 3 years up to INR 5 lakh per year; 50% reimbursement of broadband costs; power subsidy up to INR 10 lakh a year; reimbursement of patent filing costs up to INR 2 lakh for domestic patents and INR 5 lakh for international patents; and assistance of INR 5 lakh for marketing and promotion.
Tourism: Crucial cog in economic wheel
Describing tourism as a crucial cog in Nagaland’s economic wheel, Rio said the sector has the potential to significantly contribute towards the economy. “The 2018 edition of the Hornbill Festival was one of the best ever…An extensive Economic Impact Assessment report carried out by an independent agency indicated that the ten-day festival generated income revenue of INR 62.88 cr., created 8715 jobs, with 2,51,701 visitors and international tourists from more than 30 countries.”
“The revamped music policy of the state will engage the real stakeholders of the industry and undertake new initiatives of promoting all aspects of the music including capacity building, mentoring, promotion of bands and musicians, training music teachers and taking music and musicians from Nagaland to national and international platforms,” he said.
Govt. salaries draining exchequer
The chief minister said that Nagaland’s “adverse financial position” was “mainly” due to the huge number of government employees, whose salary requirements consume much of the funds. He said that we cannot continue to sacrifice developmental aspirations solely to pay salaries.
There will come a time, he said, when Nagaland will have to cut down the number of government employees and utilise the scarce resources to fund more productive activities.
Education and students’ welfare
Naga political issue
Rio asserted that resolution of the Naga political issue was at the top of the PDA government’s agenda. “My government has made it clear that we will undertake every possible measure to positively contribute towards facilitating the ongoing political dialogue so that we realise a solution that is honourable and acceptable to the people.
“…under the chairmanship of the Speaker, the JLF was reconstituted with all 60 members of the House, along with a smaller working committee. The JLF cuts across party affiliations and political ideologies as all of us come unitedly under one banner to resolve the decades old issue in the greater interest of our people,” he said.
Rio shared that the unresolved political issue has hindered the young generation’s quest to achieve their aspirations and “our people have been denied opportunities at par with their counterparts in the rest of the country and the world.
“The Naga people are crying out for lasting peace through a political solution and all sections of the people have sufficiently voiced their desire through democratic means.
“While appreciating the positive steps undertaken by the negotiating parties, we again appeal to them to expedite the peace process and bring about an early political resolution that will pave the way for lasting peace and all round development,” he said.
Battle of Kohima anniversary
Rio said that the Commonwealth War Memorial in the heart of Kohima reminds one and all of the epic Battle of Kohima that began on Apr. 4, 1944, and “will remain an integral part of our history for all times to come.”
This battle has been voted as the greatest battle fought by Great Britain in the past century and 2019 marks its 75th anniversary, he said. To commemorate the occasion, he said, the state government has set up a state-level committee and working committee.
“A year-long commemorative calendar of activities has been planned and we will be holding events, functions, services, seminars and festivals in Britain, Japan, Partnership and collaboration with governments and NGOs of Great Britian, Japan, Myanmar, United States. The events will also engage war veterans, students, families of those buried here at local communities. I have already received positive response from several prominent personalities to come and participate in our programmes,” he said.
15th Finance Commission
He informed that the state government submitted a memorandum to the 15th Finance Commission in Nov. last year with a proposal for pre-devolution deficit grant of INR 71,329 cr. for the period from 2020-21 to 2024-25.
“In addition, we have also submitted proposal for funds for critical infrastructure amounting to INR 13,390 cr. for this period. During our interactions with the chairman and members of the Finance Commission, we had highlighted the difficulties the state is facing in maintaining the large number of assets created due to paucity of funds. As a result of lack of resources, most of the critical assets in the state are deteriorating rapidly.
“We also pointed out that many critical infrastructure created during the initial years of statehood are now in a dilapidated condition, and that they are on the verge of collapse. We have requested the Commission to consider our needs in these areas. We have also requested the Commission for grants to specific projects for creation of critical infra structure such as quarters, offices, schools, hospitals, developmental gaps in the eastern Nagaland areas, improvement of air connectivity in the state and so on.
“The commission was kind enough to give our request a patient hearing and also permitted us to submit supplementary memorandum reflecting the issues raised, and has assured us that the issues and concerns would be accorded due consideration. We are hopeful that from April 2020 onwards, the financial position of our state will see a marked improvement once the award of the 15th Finance Commission begins,” he said.
The chief minister said that immediately after coming to power, the PDA government had decided to place first priority on improvement of town roads after seeing and experiencing the acute state of neglect, and the hardship the public were facing on a daily basis.
“l believe that it is the duty of any government of the day to ensure that people have a reasonable standard of road infrastructure. Bad roads most certainly add to stress and adversely affect the health of everyone, As you can see, we have already begun the process in right earnest, and the transformation is there for all to see.
“I admit that due to factors beyond our control, works get delayed for some time. But I assure the citizens of Nagaland that we will continue to work to provide good roads in all parts of the state to the extent our limited resources permit,” he said.