Does Meghalaya need a State Economic Survey?

By Dr Sridhar Kundu

For a progressive government at present in Meghalaya, it is necessary to think of working on a state economic survey. As per information available in the public domain, Meghalaya government does not publish an economic survey and stands different from many other states including its neighbours such as Assam, Manipur, and Mizoram. For the readers, it is necessary to note that publication of an economic survey for a state government is not a constitutional requirement.
In a federal structure, both the union and state governments publish and present their own economic surveys. For the union government, it is an annual exercise but, for the state governments, this custom is not followed strictly. However, some of the state governments have recently started publishing their economic surveys annually.
Economic Survey
and its objective
The economic survey presents the report card of the state economy. A detailed picture of the status of the macro economy and individual performances of its various sectors is presented in the survey in a lucid manner. Besides the macroeconomic indicators, performances in some of the social sectors such as education, health, water, and sanitation and others, are presented in the survey in a way understandable for both a layman and subject experts. Again, the financial status of the state government and its various policy and program interventions are elaborately discussed in an economic survey.
A responsible government brings out surveys annually to make the citizens well informed about the status of the state economy. Through a detailed analysis of various aspects of the economy with facts and research, the survey tries to provide a direction which the government uses in its policy making. The government also uses this survey report to get a political mileage by patronising its own performances through the economic performances of the state.
Union Government and Economic Survey
For the union government, economic surveys have been prepared annually since 1950-51. In the beginning, it was part of the union budget document but since 1964 the economic survey was published as a separate document.
The economic survey is prepared by the Ministry of Finance and the office of the Chief Economic Advisor holds the sole responsibility for its preparation. It is presented and tabled in parliament by the finance minister, one day before the budget presentation. The simultaneous presentation of both the documents is done with the purpose of showing the policy link between the two.
A detailed analysis of various aspects of the Indian economy and various policy prescriptions presented in the survey provide the government immense support in its strategies of budgetary allocation. The government also refers to the economic survey in addressing and defending various questions asked in the parliament during the budget session.
State Economic Surveys
For the state governments, the department of planning is usually the responsible authority to prepare the state economic surveys. As per the information available in the public domain some of the state governments started preparing their economic survey reports in the year 2000. Kerala stands as an exception as surveys for this state have been available since 1959. However, it is also possible that some of the states have their surveys before 2000 but these are not available in their departments’ websites for the use of public purposes.
Among the north-eastern states, as per the information available in public domain, only two states i.e., Meghalaya and Sikkim do not have their economic surveys. The government of Arunachal Pradesh started doing this exercise in 2018. The government of Assam started publishing this report in 2010-11. The government of Manipur started publishing this report from 2018-19. Economic survey of Mizoram and Nagaland is available in the public domain since 2012-13 and 2010-11 respectively.
It is also important to note that at the state level, the nomenclature of the survey differs from state to state. In Kerala and Rajasthan, West Bengal and few others, the survey is published as Economic Review. In Gujarat, the survey is published as Socio-Economic Review whereas in Telangana, it is published as Socio-Economic Outlook.
Existing reports on
Meghalaya state economy
In the absence of an economic survey, some of the reports published by the state government of Meghalaya available in public domain, provide information on state economy. However, they are not regularly updated. In 2008, the Department of Planning published the State Development Report. It provides information on various sectors such as agriculture, industry, tourism, and other services. However, all this information is not updated as no State Development Reports were published since 2008 and if published, they are not available in the public domain. Similarly, the last state Human Development Report published and available in public domain was for the year 2008-09.
The statistical handbook of the state which used to be an annual and regular publication from the Directorate of Economics and Statistics since 1976-77 was last updated in 2019. It provides basic information about agriculture, industry, food, and public distribution etc. However, provisioning with all this information, the document misses out the basic policy prescriptions which the government needs in its application in budget preparation.
Usefulness of the survey
The infrequent publication of various reports by the state government provides scattered information about the state economy and performances in its various social indicators. Because of the nature of irregularity, information from these reports are also less updated and reliable. There is also the possibility that information from different publications do not match with each other and add to the complexities. The economic survey can be a replacement for many of these published reports.
For a state government it is necessary to look at the priorities while allocating public resources. Optimal allocation of resources is possible with a better selection of priorities backed by resource constraints. The economic survey with its detailed information and some of the research findings would help the government in segregating its priorities among many.
The survey also analyses various schematic interventions and their functioning and pattern of state finance. This analysis would help the government in bringing changes in its spending and borrowing pattern.
Last not the least, the economic survey can help the state government to improve its image of being transparent and honest to the people. It also helps the other state governments and union government to better understand its functioning and thus, help in strengthening its bilateral and multi-lateral relationship.
(The author is Senior Economist Bharti Institute of Public Policy Indian School of Business.
Views of the author are personal. Email: [email protected])

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