Budget session and beyond : Battle is over; but war is not over
Professor N Mohendro Singh
The battle of the budget session is over; but war is not over. The small open tottering economy of Manipur has to face a vast array of wars, not only WAR against DRUGS importing from the Golden Triangle bordering Laos, Thailand and Myanmar , but also 1) War against captive economy, 2) War against stagflation, 3) War against industrial standstill, 4) War against agricultural deceleration, 5) War against massive land degradation, 6) War against water crisis, 7) War against indiscriminate destruction of water bodies and wetlands 8) War against unabated deforestation and climate change, 9) War against insecurity of income of over 4 lakh marginal workers, 19) War against distorted villages, 11) War against huge backlog of all-weather roads, 12) War against adulteration and dust pollution, 13) War against schooling without learning, 14) War against corruption and nepotism, 15) War against cultural invasion and 16) War against huge educated unemployment.
Do we now have a clear picture of our future? We cannot go back from the battlefield. We have to accept the challenges with knowledge, courage and commitment to catch up with the rest of the country.
Interestingly, the budget session passed a budget for 2021-22 with a financial commitment to expenditure amounting to Rs. 28824.24 crore of which the capital expenditure is 31% and revenue expenditure 69%. The gross fiscal deficit of Rs. 3976 crore means that we are going to spend more than our own income but what about Self Liquidating Long Term Strategy. Let us expect better performance of capital expenditure.
The downward trend of non-tax revenue from Rs 166 crore in 2918-19 to Rs. 135 crore in 2019-20 speaks of the low asset base of the state while development depends, largely, upon the quantity and quality of the lasting assets. This is to be guarded against.
The budget session, it appears, was not fairly sensitive to the rising concerns of sectoral planning and development. The absence of District Development Plans may not be rewarding in this age of decentralisation and bottom-up approach. The micro level solution in the last line at the bottom remains a cause of concern. In fact, the budget should be prepared with reference to the 15 Year Vision Document, 7 year Strategy Plan and 3 Year Action Plan. During the entire proceedings of the session not a single line of reference was made to MANIPUR VISION-2030 prepared by the Government of Manipur as a Guide Book.
The continued weakness of the state economy is reflected in the Grants-in-Aid from the Centre accounting for 67% of the revenue receipts. This means to say that we cannot run our economy without the Grants from the Centre.
Mention may be made of budgetary outlay of Rs. 1200 crore for drinking water. This is good.Because we are getting close to a running phenomenon of water crisis with a dismal future in all manifestations. The budgetary provision of Rural Development has been increased from Rs. 2713 crore in 2020-21 (B.E.) to Rs. 2088 crore in 2021-22 (B.E.). This is the right step. In fact, Manipur lives in the villages, dull, dirty and dilapidated. The fate of the state largely depends upon the fate of villages.
Yes gender budgeting is important in a state like Manipur where economic participation of women is more than 40% but equally important, perhaps, more important is the Outcome Budget which has a distinct advantage of informing us of the financial and physical achievements. We can assess and convince ourselves with the emerging challenges of the economy. Actual development in the real sense of the term depends upon the standard of physical achievement, not merely upon financial achievement. The dismal scenario of kachha roads decorated with dusts, muds and potholes in the 21st century is a grim reminder of the poor outcome of the outlay.
Next year let us expect both Outcome Budget and Outlay Budget as a distinct mark of commitment to the new era of modern development.
The writer was Professor of Economics, Manipur University.