By Dr. Sridhar Kundu
The election for the state legislative assembly in Meghalaya is over and the results are out. The state is going to have a new government very soon. Congratulations to the people of Meghalaya, the political parties, and their leaders for the smooth conduct of the election in the state. Starting from the campaign to the voting and, then the declaration of election results, the whole process worked very smoothly. Election without any scuffle reflects the peace-loving nature of the people of the state and is an example set for other states to follow.
Meghalaya is the symbol of the smooth functioning of democracy. Experiences from the field say that leaders from various political parties, including those in power and in opposition, do come together, debate and discuss various issues with calm and propriety. The discipline in placing arguments and presenting voices by party leaders is a lesson to the rest of India and the world.
In a democratically conducted election, the outcome is neither controlled nor regulated. The result is uncertain. The higher the degree of uncertainty of results shows the higher level of fairness and transparency in the electoral process. As the election results are out and a new government is going to be functional in a few days, the first and foremost priority is to meet all the aspirations of the people.
The state is yet to recover from the economic downturn caused due to covid-19 pandemic. The major issue before the state as highlighted by many political parties during their campaign is unemployment. Many political parties have included the issue of unemployment and its quick solution in their manifesto.
Unemployment is a serious issue for the economy and if not checked, it badly impacts other economic fundamentals. The problem of unemployment limits economic growth and reduces the standard of living of the people and, stands as one of the reasons behind many socio-economic evils. However, there is no quick-fix solution to the problem of unemployment. Steps need to be taken in the right direction to achieve the solution in the medium and long run.
According to the updated report of CMIE, the monthly unemployment in the state reached about 4.2 per cent as of February 2023. The unemployment problem in urban areas is 10 per cent while the same in rural areas stands at 3 per cent. The higher concentration of unemployment in the urban city centres of the state warrants planning- better focused and targeted.
The urban-educated youth need skilled employment. All of them aspire to have well-paid jobs not necessarily only in government offices or in government-owned enterprises. A well-paid job also does not necessarily mean a job with a fat salary. But, the salary should be adequate to manage the family in the face of rising food prices. It is necessary to add here that the current food price inflation has reached above 7 per cent and is expected to rise due to supply constraints in various parts of the world. Rising cost prices of education and health services add an additional burden on the common man. The youths in the urban city centres demand decent jobs to provide better education and health to their families.
The creation of urban employment opportunities needs revival growth in industrial activity. The manufacturing sector shares just 3.3 per cent of the state’s GSDP in 2020-21. The growth in this sector is very low as well. The annual average growth of manufacturing in the last five years is less than 1 per cent.
The economic growth and development of a nation depend on the strength of its industrialisation. The industrial sector generates value addition and provides employment opportunities. It absorbs the surplus labour force in the economy, both educated and uneducated and even those who remained disguised in the agriculture and allied sector.
The major issue, the state has been facing so far, is the lack of investment in industrial activity. Investments from both the public sector and private sector have been traditionally low. In 2019-20, the gross fixed capital formation (GFCF) as a share of the state’s gross domestic product (GDP) stands at 0.6 per cent. In 2011-12, the share was 3.2 per cent and over the years, the share of GFCF has witnessed a declining trend. However, at the all-India level, the GFCF share in the country’s total GDP stands at 30 per cent.
The need of the hour is to provide a higher level of attention to the growth of the manufacturing sector in the state which can be possible by creating a conducive environment for the growth of the public and private sectors. The new government may put more focus on capital outlay, possibly in the infrastructure sector.
Capital formation in the physical infrastructure improves connectivity and thus, supports easing the transport of raw materials at lower cost, and again, facilitates the reach of the final output to each single demand hub. The life cycle of the product improves with the development of physical infrastructure and contributes to the growth of the industry and creates employment opportunities in the state.
But resources with the state government to intervene in the provisioning of infrastructure facilities are less. Looking at the resource constraints, the state government may follow the path of the other state governments to organise an “Investor Summit ” and create a common platform for investors to come and join hands for possible economic development in the state. This engagement would induce investment sentiment and help generate resources for growth and stability in the long run.
The capital of Meghalaya, Shillong has the potential of becoming the intellectual hub for the north-eastern states and the country as well. With many good educational institutions, the city has attracted many academics, and researchers from all around the country and the world. It is the entry gate for many northeastern states. The state needs to realise its strength and gather self-trust which is the critical minimum factor to keep the economy on the path of sustainable growth and meet the aspiration of the common man.
(The writer is Sr. Analyst, Bharti Institute of Public Policy, ISB, Mohali)