Economists discuss ways to boost economy of North East

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Published: October 31, 2015 9:09:52 AM

Constant deliberations between academia and bureaucrats would augur well for a fast progressing Arunachal Pradesh, said Chief Minister Nabam Tuki, while advocating that the Rajiv Gandhi University, a repository of knowledge, should act as a think tank in policy formulation.

Constant deliberations between academia and bureaucrats would augur well for a fast progressing Arunachal Pradesh, said Chief Minister Nabam Tuki, while advocating that the Rajiv Gandhi University, a repository of knowledge, should act as a think tank in policy formulation.

Addressing economists of the North East region at the 17th annual conference of North Eastern Economic Association (NEEA) at the Rajiv Gandhi University near here, Tuki, who was the chief guest, said the state is going through a massive transition. Connectivity being the catalyst for development, he said the 1,600-km Trans-Arunachal Highway would be completed by 2017.

He said that over 529-kilometers of rural roads has been built and efforts are on to introduce fixed wing aircraft service as the Ziro, Pasighat, Tezu and Mechuka airports would be operational next year.

Besides listing his government’s achievements in health and tourism, health and agri-allied sectors, and other initiatives to generate employment through subsidized state flagship schemes and special economic zones in the foothill areas, Chief Minister Tuki said the 14th Finance Commission has given a higher fiscal input of 72.5 percent as against 57.5 percent set during the 13th Finance Commission, while the state would get a higher share of central taxes.

The state being a late starter has crossed the initial hurdles and has proposed a Vision for 2030 by then the state would undergo a sea change in all-round development.

Professor Barbara Harriss-White, Professor Emeritus of Oxford University, UK, who has in-depth working experience in Indian economics, and who visited Arunachal Pradesh in 2007, observed that the labour market and health, themes of the conference, are vital for India’s growth. She raised six vital questions in her paper – Middle India and Urban-Rural Development: Four Decades of Change – giving enough materials for serious thought.

What is the informal economy? About 93 percent of all livelihoods and over 60 percent GDP, 40 percent manufactures exports come from unregistered sources, covering many sectors from agriculture to the Border Roads Organisation labour force working in Arunachal which come under informal economy. Contact labour, illegal labour, women working in paddy fields etc are all part of Indian economy, making India’s informal economy much larger than that of the other BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa).

On the myth about informal economy, she said that “unemployed labour is without security system, which exists in the Indian capital. This was taught in 1970 when the concept of informal economy evolved. What is difference between formal and informal economy? It exists side by side without which the economy cannot exist,” Professor White said as guest of honour.

The paradox in India’s informal economy, which raises questions on the issue of work and well-being, mostly the labour and contracts, which do not come under the purview of the law, consists of 60 percent GDP, three-fourths of formal or regulated economy. It may be outside the state but not out of global economy, she argued.

Why the labour laws need reforms if those cannot be enforced? There are 44 to 64 labour laws, which need to be simplified to be more protective. Self-employed people are sized labourers. But the informal economy contributing to the wellbeing cannot be denied, she supplemented.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan would benefit the poor section, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister’s insurance policy is a very good example for the welfare of the masses; she said and concluded her address by linking the elephant statue with a howda in Oxford University to the roaming elephant herd of Arunachal.

Highlighting the theme and the objectives, NEEA president Professor Sundarja Borbora of IIT-G underscored the importance of good governance with accountability, transparency and citizenry participation which are vital for eradicating poverty and ensuring good heath to the people.

The good governance was born out of frustration of developing countries, he said while quoting World Bank definition – “By adding together all the incomes in the economy- wages, interest, profits, and rents or by adding together all the expenditures in the economy- consumption, investment, government purchases of goods and services, and net exports (exports minus imports)”. Citing the development index that placed Gujarat at the top and NE states of Meghalaya, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, ranked among the last three scoring less than five percent in overall implementation of the action plan so also in bottom in corruption index painting a gloomy picture, he hoped for a changed governance or good enough governance for a much desired turn around.

Vice Chancellor Professor Tamo Mibang, in his address, highlighted as to how the economy of the region was dependent on labour and their health. Citing the vast land resources of USA, which was exploited by imported labour, the secret of development, he said, “We have completed 68 years as an independent nation, but confront many problems. How to address the ILP and demographic issues?, he asked. Insurgency and shutdown culture in Brahmaputra Valley have been hampering development so also Assam-Arunachal-Meghalaya-Nagaland inter-state boundary problems.

He stressed on peace as a prerequisite for development of the North East, and exhorted economists to influence policy makers for finding lasting solutions to these problems.

NEFA born in 1997 is a non-political NGO working with a national perspective, said NEEA secretary Indranil Bhowmik of Tripura University, adding anyone interest in economic affairs is welcome.

The two-day conference has been organised by the economics department of the Rajiv Gandhi University, whose head, Dr. Ranjana Upadhya, and School of Social Sciences Dean, Professor S.K. Nayak, addressed the gathering, including delegates from various parts of India, noted economist and 13th Finance Commission member Professor Atul Sharma, faculty and students.

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