Monday, April 15, 2024

Meghalaya Budget 2024-25


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The Meghalaya Assembly is soon meeting for the budget session. Budget making is a serious exercise. Since 1972, the Meghalaya Government has been making the annual budget where it allocates resources without proper grassroots planning process. In fact in recent years the district planning process has all but collapsed. Without understanding the needs of people at the village level how can a plan be crafted and budget allocated? And without a pragmatic plan that is grounded on the needs of communities in the rural outback how can any budget meet their aspirations? Every elected government has social, political and economic responsibilities which it has to discharge. In a state which now has huge economic disparities and which requires substantial investments in human development such as in education, health care, communication etc., budget making has to be realistic to be able to make a difference to the lives of people.
What needs to be considered in budget making is to also understand the three important sectors of the economy – primary, secondary and tertiary sectors. The primary economic sector in Meghalaya is still agriculture, yet the allocation to this sector is often not commensurate with the needs. Horticulture is given more prominence because of the ability of those in the sector to market their products more effectively and efficiently. The secondary and tertiary sector require more in-depth treatment. Meghalaya has just recently been declared the third poorest state in the country by NITI Aayog. It is time for the Government to go to the root of the matter and study the reasons for growing poverty and what keeps people from coming out of the poverty trap. With educational outcomes remaining very poor right at the primary school level and the number of drop-outs increasing every year, even as the ability of the system to provide skills to those drop-outs remains questionable, poverty is bound to increase. What strategies does the government have in place to reduce drop-out when the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan which aims to retain students and prevent kids from dropping out seems to have all but failed in Meghalaya. It is also important for the Government to have a strict monitoring system to ensure that funds reach the targeted areas. The MDA Government appears to have made some interventions in terms of skilling entrepreneurs, financing and hand-holding them.
But the numbers are far too small for a booming number of graduates that are on the lookout for self- employment. What is also observed is that the Government of Meghalaya is meeting its fiscal deficit targets not by increasing revenues but by reducing expenditure in key sectors and increasingly borrowing from the market.Meghalaya has very limited capacity to raise revenue internally since it has very few revenue generating industries, after coal mining was banned in 2014. The state relies heavily on borrowings even for infrastructure projects. The question is – how sustainable is this model of governance and how much thought actually goes into the budget making exercise.


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