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Assam has a long way to catch up with national per capita income, says Singh

Staff Reporter
GUWAHATI, April 26: Stating that the Assam Government has made ‘significant progress’ in achieving accelerated growth rate in the last two years, 15th Finance Commission Chairman NK Singh said on Thursday that Assam needs to grow at ‘more than double digit numbers’ in the coming decade for its per capita income to catch up with the national average. He said that the 90:10 funding pattern in case of central schemes has not been tampered with.
“It’s a long way to go for the State to realize its high growth potential. Besides catching up with the all-India per capital income, the State also needs to catch up with the national average on some other key indicators like education, health etc., particularly in terms of the outcome,” Singh said. He was addressing the media here.
The 15th Finance Commission will cover a five-year period from April 1, 2020, and has to submit its final report by end of October, 2019.
Singh said the State has made signification progress in the past two-three years ‘in improving its own revenue’, meeting the ‘daunting and difficult’ fiscal targets and maintaining overall macro-economic stability.
Singh pointed that the State needs to improve the quality of expenditure by focusing on allotting more towards capital expenditure to meet the infrastructure requirement.
On power sector, Singh said, “Progress has been made in the power sector, but what needs improvement is the power availability, while bringing down the transmission and distribution losses and ensuring 100 per cent compulsory meter usage.”
Admitting that natural disasters are a major challenge for the State, Singh said the Commission has ‘empathy’ to the ‘creative idea of the Chief Minister of giving Majuli some significance’. “We’ll have to work on more tangible proposals on that. We’ll have to see what can be done in the broader framework of entire ecological issues relating to the Brahmaputra. We need to take a holistic view,” he added.
Singh further said there are issues of losses the State incurred due to the transition to GST which have been brought to the notice of the Commission. “They will be studied in greater details,” he said, and added: “We’ll have to have an appropriate kind of mechanism to ensure that the recent growth momentum achieved by the State is not slowed down because of this.”
Asked on the losses the State suffered due to withdrawal of the special category status, Singh said the matter was pointed out by the State government though the issue ‘does not come under the purview of the terms of reference of the commission’.
“The 90:10 funding pattern in case of central schemes has not been tampered with. But there are issues related to externally aided projects, issues of uncertainty and consequences arising out of abolition of the Planning Commission in terms of some of the devolution the Planning Commission made like plan assistances. We need to study these issues carefully before coming to a conclusion,” Singh added.