Dr Asangba Tzudir
The year 2022 will make way for the New Year 2023 in a few days, and looking back, it has been another topsy-turvy year, though a year filled with activities all through in all the social and political spheres. And in spite of the achievements and accomplishments, a word that will be carried forward into the New Year is ‘discontentment’, so also the issue to be carried forward is the ‘unresolved’ Naga Political issue and the state financial burden.
Behold, these are issues that makes the coming New Year not so new. However, these are pressing concerns that cannot be erased or left behind. Sadly, the trend is such that, Nagaland seems incomplete without these issues. That, it has become synonymous with Nagaland, a ‘normalized condition.’
Over the years, and because of the growing number of educated unemployed youths in the state, the state government has given much attention towards skilling the youths in various fields. This is one way to ease the financial burden of the state which spends bulk of the budget on salaries and wages of Govt. employees. (Statistically, the expenditure on salaries and wages of state Government employees in Nagaland increased by 51.03% from Rs 3274.16 Crore in 2014-15 to Rs 4944.95 Crore in 2018-19).
The various forms of discontentment is there to stay because it is difficult to uniformly please everyone and especially within a political context of development. And while the Naga Political Issue and the pursuit of a final solution/settlement that is ‘honorable’ and ‘acceptable’ to all continues to drag on without any finality, the concern and the main focus area for 2023 then becomes the revival of the state economy that is currently shrouded in a dependency syndrome, not to mention the budget deficit. Chief Minister Rio, in the 11th Session of the 13th Nagaland Legislative Assembly had stated that, “because of the negative opening balance of Rs 2363.04 crore, the year 2022-23 is estimated to close with a negative balance of Rs 2212.74 crore.”
Along with the other concerns, the state financial deficit itself is a worrying sign for the coming New Year. And this calls for sincere policy measures in key revenue generation areas to revive the state of the current financial instability and deficit. The State’s revenue generation is one key aspect that requires serious attention. To cite an instance, and going by potentialities, Nagaland state has the potential to generate Rs. 100 Crore revenue even through Off-Road Business Model. Tourism, which is a key component for revenue generation has remained not only understudied but largely unexplored. Nagaland should tap the huge potentialities in the tourism sector because of the rich diversity of resources in the state.
Further, in the revival of the economy, a lot will depend on the policy measures that will be adopted towards Skill development and Youth resources development. This is a very critical component to develop skills and resources and also identity and channel the right amount of resources and place the right person in the right place. As of now many students are ‘forced’ to pursue higher studies after graduation without any clear career path or without interest due to lack of interest avenues.
Unless skills and resources are developed among the youths, each year ending will only add to the number of educated unemployed (and unemployables) in the state which currently stands at a record 92,382, and this figure is only the registered figure, and remains one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.
A ‘New Jerusalem’ may not be created overnight to roll into the New Year. The state has come a long way since the attainment of statehood, and still has a very long way to go to be at par with the rest of the states in the country. Discontentments and unresolved issues will continue to be the unhappy ground even in the New Year. However, considering the state of affairs, the state’s key policies should look at the larger spectrum of development beyond ‘overnight changes’ or ‘lipstick’ development by setting long term goals towards building a strong and robust economy giving special emphasis on skilling youths and resources building. This will definitely have a positive impact on the economic condition of the state.
Dr Asangba Tzudir contributes a weekly guest editorial to The Morung Express. Comments can be emailed to [email protected]