Of Populist Schemes

The MDA Government must have the highest number of consultants advising it on various thematic aspects of governance that are intended to make the government look good. Notably most of the schemes that have spun out of the Meghalaya Basin Management Agency (MBMA) have political overtones. For instance schemes like the Farmers Collectivization For Upscaling Production and Marketing System (FOCUS) and Promotion and Incubation of Market Driven Enterprises (PRIME) are aimed at scoring brownie points for the MDA government. Hence the hurried distribution of cash in the months preceding the announcement of elections. Going by their names these schemes would involve a regimen of training for the farmers and entrepreneurs so that the cash they are doled out is not used for something else other than what they are intended for. Both FOCUS and PRIME require critical skill sets. Were the farmers adequately trained to work as a collective and to form robust and viable Farmers’ Producers Co—operatives which usually revolve around some commonalities such as the kind of crops they grow? This involves a lot of cooperation and mutual trust. It is a time-consuming activity requiring long term hand-holding. It is unsure if this exercise has been undertaken and who is doing the hand-holding.
As far as entrepreneurship is concerned it makes good economic sense for the state to promote it as an alternative to government employment which had reached saturation point some two decades ago. For want of entrepreneurial skills every second person in Meghalaya who is not in government employment is a government contractor. They include a good number of leaders of pressure groups. A government contractor is not an entrepreneur because he is treading a known path and will be paid for his work. The problem is with start-ups. Entrepreneurship is not a cakewalk. People attend business schools, paying a considerable amount of money to learn the skills involved in becoming successful entrepreneurs. Besides, an entrepreneur is someone who starts a business or a trade putting his/her own money into the business. If the business works well it’s all good but there is no guarantee that a start-up will necessarily work. There could be downsides as so much depends on market fluctuations. How does the entrepreneur cover his/her losses then? In the case of Meghalaya, the Government has been the prime angel investor. An angel investor or angel funder is usually someone who has money to spare or a high net-worth individual who backs a start-up essentially because the funder sees some potential in the start-up and also desires equity in the company. The angel investment is mainly to get the start-up off the ground. The question is whether the PRIME or FOCUS scheme is institutionalised. If not the next government may jettison it if only because it was a brainwave of a rival government. Several individuals and companies are heavily invested in PRIME. What will their future look like?
These questions demand answers!

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