Owing to various factors, historical as well as geographic, Mizoram, located in the far corner of the country, has been isolated for a long period and industrialisation and technological inventions that have changed many other states of the Country and brought them to prosperity, did not reach Mizoram, and we Mizos have been ensconced in our land like young caterpillars in the cocoon.
Globalisation and global market with all its paraphernalia have so suddenly caught us up in the latter part of the 20th century and the 21st century when we are yet so unprepared to compete with the most advanced economies of the world. Now we need to keep pace with the world economically in this competitive world. Mizoram, geographically a landlocked State, being sandwiched between foreign countries, namely Bangladesh and Myanmar, with the international boundaries so porous for easy entrance of illegal aliens, in the far corner of the Northeast India, connected with only vehicular roads and infrequent air flights, has a serious transport bottleneck which unavoidably poses an almost insurmountable handicap for economic progress.
Though Mizoram has many disadvantages owing to its geographical location and no access to sea, Mizoram has many natural advantages that other countries and States in India rarely have. It has the most comfortable climate all throughout the year unlike many European countries and Americas where winter snow poses a serious problem for two or more months during each year, nor is it intolerably hot as in most Indian States. Again, owing to the immense contribution of Christian missionaries, a very high percentage of the people are also literate and embrace Christianity.
The State’s flagship programme of New Land Use Policy (NLUP) that has changed the method of cultivation and the eking out of livelihood for a large number of people, not only contributes to economic development of the people, but has actually helped in ameliorating the problem of environmental threats to a considerable level. The New Economic Development Policy, which addresses the problem of unproductive farming practices, and finding ways to augment the income of the common people thus placing Mizoram in the economic boom map in India, will also be an effective instrument affectionately to be titled the Mizoram Economic Exodus which frees the Mizo people from poverty, subsistence economy, dependency and fear psychosis. The juncture at which Mizoram finds itself has the unforeseen blessing in the changed financial devolution from the Central Government of India to States, as recommended by the Fourteenth Finance Commission (FFC).
With the major role of the erstwhile Planning Commission having been effectively transferred to the States, it is the States now which have the crucial responsibility in determining their priorities and focus areas in matters of economic development and governance to a considerable degree. Therefore, this devolution for financing of development programme of Indian States has dramatically changed following the dismantling of Planning Commission in 2014 and the acceptance of the 14th Finance Commission (2014-2020) recommendation by the Central Government. Individual States are now increasingly responsible for their own development, welfare and prosperity.
Plan fund transfers such as normal central assistance (NCA), special plan assistance (SPA), additional central assistance (ACA) have now been discontinued. Centrally sponsored schemes and central major programmes have also been rationalised. Specific provisions for North Eastern States such as 10 per cent Gross Budgetary Support earmarked by Central Ministries/Departments, Non – Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR) under Ministry of Department of North East Region (DoNER) and North Eastern Council (NEC) have been more or less stagnant at the same levels for the past few years with relative share of allocation continuously declining.
Meanwhile, the increase in the share of taxes under FFC award from 32 to 42 percent has, to some extent, compensated the States. The State is fortunate to get a separate transfer for revenue deficit grants as well. The Government will have to take this change as an opportunity to reorient its policy towards achieving stronger economic growth. Development opportunities for the North East States including Mizoram have been expected to have potentials to greatly expand with India’s increased economic integration with South East Asian countries under Act East Policy.
At the same time, policymaker/planners cannot overlook and ignore how climate change and environmental degradation pose a critical challenge for ensuring livelihood security of a large number of rural populations and threaten inclusive and sustainable development of the State. Moreover, in today’s competitive world, government actions and public policy play a critical role in shaping the competitiveness of both the Government and businesses. Given these perspectives and the paradigm shift in fiscal federalism in the Country under FFC, the States need to evolve a new development policy which is practical, holistic, inclusive and sustainable.
The limited resources available have to be optimally and judiciously allocated to various sectors of the economy so as to bring maximum benefit to the people of Mizoram. To address these challenges, the Government is determined to bring about a strong and sustainable economy with robust public finances in an integrated manner. In this respect, the Mizoram State Planning Board under the Chairmanship of Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla has developed a “New Economic Development Policy – Comprehensive Growth Strategies for Mizoram” as the framework for economic policy and the strategic driving force of the State’s economy.
The New Economic Development Policy aims at providing bold, practical and effective strategies to push economy to a high growth path by enhancing productivity, creating employment opportunities, improving public finances, improving business environment and improving public service delivery in a sustainable manner. It also lays out a dynamic vision for how we can collectively achieve a more developed, democratic, cohesive and inclusive economy and society over the medium term, in the context of sustained growth.
The strategy sets out critical policy interventions for employment generation, empowerment of weaker sections, and inclusive growth and identifies where viable changes in the structure and character of production can generate a more inclusive and robust economy over the medium to long run. The new policy recognises that achieving transformation of economic conditions requires hard choices and a shared determination of the people of Mizoram. The new policy combines growth strategies across various sectors into a coherent package for development, decent work and inclusive growth. They bring together the priorities that constitute the basic economic focus to forge ahead to promote a more inclusive and stronger economy.
The Mizoram Government is optimistic of our future because we have the most literate people, with high percentage of young population, who are ever eager to make Mizoram one of the most developed States in India.
(Views expressed in this article are of Lalsawta, Minister for Planning, Finance, Law and Judicial, and Taxation, Government of Mizoram)