Friday, December 8, 2023

Capitalising on a geological phenomenon


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Most people are not in a position to analyse the budget unless economists put it down in layman’s language for ordinary people to comprehend and base their judgments on government spending. Commissioner and Secretary, Planning etc., Dr D Vijay Kumar in a response to the allegations of the TMC national spokesperson, Saket Gokhale that Rs 632 crores (USD 79.05 million) taken as a loan for the Meghalaya Eco-tourism Infrastructure Development has been injudiciously spent via the route of The Meghalayan Age Ltd, had stated that loans under externally aided projects are underwritten by Government of India. The soft loan comes in the form of a 90 % grant from government of India with State Government having to pay back only 10% of the loan amount. The Meghalayan Age is an unlisted government-owned company with three Government officials on its board – D Vijay Kumar, Cyril Diengdoh and Robert Lyngdoh as directors and with a paid up capital of Rs 1 crore.
The idea of creating a company is to facilitate borrowings from external agencies and international funding organisations and banks etc., which look at creative ventures. The Meghalayan Age is a nomenclature that dates the Mawsmai caves at Sohra to the last 4200 years as being a distinct age in the story of the planet as classified by geologists worldwide in 2018. The onset of a drought that crushed several civilisations worldwide was termed the Meghalayan Age. Meghalaya made it into the geologic time scale thanks to a stalagmite found in the Mawmluh cave one of the oldest caves of the earth where geologists say the history of the earth has been recorded flawlessly. The Meghalayan Age has become the proverbial goose that lays the golden eggs. Shrewd government officials were quick to capitalise from the Meghalayan Age. However, the purpose should have been clear – that capital should have been in the larger interests of the state and its people.
It is also natural that international funding agencies which are constantly looking out for creative channels of funding other than roads and infrastructure projects, would cash in on such a global phenomenon. External funding agencies are very strict when it comes to funding roads and water projects. The projects are closely monitored, knowing fully well that such projects are also most prone to corruption and siphoning off funds to different pockets leaving the road project incomplete, half-complete or poorly executed. Projects implemented through the Meghalayan Age to different verticals such as the Meghalaya Basin Management Agency (MBMA) etc., are intended for political mileage with an eye on elections. Schemes such as FOCUS, PRIME and a host of others are intended for visibility and this has been managed very well by the movers and shakers of The Meghalayan Age. It will take an astute financial wizard to find out if Meghalaya’s externally aided projects have long term benefits or are shortcuts for those in the present government to secure their seats in 2023.

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