Sunday, September 25, 2022

Money comes to nowhere

It has been quite some time since government employees in Nagaland have not been paid salaries regularly and on time since every effort is made to pay them even if it means having do take a bit from here and there. When salaries were not releases, the government informed that it had sent orders to all departments to release salaries on the first of every month. The delay, according to a government source was due to some technicalities as all requirements were sent to the Treasury and Accounts on the thirtieth day and this time it fell on June 30. When the technical problems overran the period to the second week, the government had to come out with an assurance that all salaries will be released from August 16. However, there was rider that this would depend on the State government’s resources position as it only receives revenue deficit grant and share of Central taxes at different periods. The state government has also admitted that the budget will close with a negative balance of Rs 2,212.74 crore due to the negative opening balance. Nagaland has been the recipient of huge central funds over the decades since 2003 that began with a gigantic one-time grant of Rs.365 crore peace bonus. This bonus wiped out around Rs.225 crore deficit left behind by the previous government and resulted in unparalleled positive balance of around Rs.140 crore for 2003-04. However, by the succeeding annual financial year the state again fell under the deficit trap. It may be noted that over and above the huge peace bonus, the Vajpayee government had pumped in hundreds of crores for various projects in the state. Nagaland has witnessed many projects that have sprouted across the landscape but these projects have become the conduits for making money through multiplication of estimated projects. Sadly, against the flood of money, roads, except in Dimapur and Kohima, are not at all something to be proud of. The government has been making much about achievements with publications of colorful brochures that have become an annual affair and of course at huge cost to the departments. If the beautifully printed booklets were even half factual, it would have made a lot of difference on the lives of the ordinary people. The worst facet of financial mismanagement is the fact that Nagaland has an outstanding of around Rs.15,620.8 crore borrowed from the market. The total outstanding liabilities (debt) of Nagaland Government have been gradually increasing and stood at Rs 15,620.8 crore as of March 2022, informed data provided by the Union Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman in the Lok Sabha on July 25. Among the North-East State, Assam had the highest outstanding liabilities at Rs 1,07,719.5 crore while Tripura was on the second at Rs 23,624.5 crore. Nagaland was third among the NE States. These loans will have to be repaid when due and that will also lead to cuts from the source at the finance ministry. While Assam has gas, oil, rubber tea for earning revenue, Tripura has thermal power as source for revenue. Nagaland could have had oil but that will be a delayed process. Unfortunately, coal is being mined unscientifically by landowners who have become pawns at the hands of coal mafia in Assam and Bihar. It is time that the finance portfolio is specifically allotted to a minister having some knowledge about commerce or accounting so that the minister will be able to devote time to monitor financial management.