Equal Access

With an Annual Plan outlay of Rs. 900 crores, Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio has once gain managed to juggle the rupees and the paise and presented what he has termed as a ‘pro poor’ budget. Set to be the last budget presentation of the DAN government before facing polls early next year, the slogan of a ‘pro poor’ ‘rural based’ budget should not come as a surprise. However even if there is a streak of populism in the budget, slogans have to be translated into reality and this government must do just that in order to retain its credibility or claim as a people’s mandated government. There is no doubt that some of the concerns being raised by the Opposition Congress over fund misuse need to be corrected. The gain, if any, made over the Year of Farmers 2006, has not percolated down to the desired level and the Chief Minister should himself show personal initiative to ensure that the fruits of development is spread out evenly. 

Continuing the Year of Farmers to 2007 is a welcome move. For the NPF led DAN government, it is also an opportunity to evaluate the success and failures of last year’s programme on the year of farmers and make the necessary corrections so as to leave a lasting impression on the farming sector in terms of its sustainability and as an economically productive vocation that will contribute in large measure to the growth of the local economy. The decision to specifically earmark Rs. 20 crores over and above the normal allocations for the “Year of Farmers” programme in 2007-08 as mentioned in the budget should be judiciously utilized. It is also suggested that information related to programmes meant for the Year of Farmers is given more visible publicity in all the local dailies and that too over a longer period of time so that the general public is made aware of the different schemes available. In this way, the attempts to corner all government benefits by a few whose interest it is to bypass public information systems (like advertising in the newspapers) will be curbed to some extent.

Coming back to the budget announced, at the end of the day it is how well the money that is allocated to different departments is properly utilized, which will determine the all round development and prosperity of the State. What should be noted as encouraging in is the attempt made to get the private sector involved in the development process. The setting up of a Public Private Partnership Cell in the Finance Department during 2006 as stated by the State Chief Minister in his budget speech is a welcome move. As mentioned by Rio, private sector participation in agriculture, industries, urban development, power, tourism, water supply, health and education etc will provide the much needed resources and expertise to provide better and efficient services to the public. This is a welcome change of mindset and acknowledgement of the fact that there are some areas in which government involvement should be minimal. This will also allow the government to give greater attention on the core sectors.