SETTING AN AGENDA
It is important to set an agenda for the political parties, so that they can accommodate issues related to the common man in their manifestoes and work towards progress and development of Punjab.
As the assembly elections approach, it is important for the media and right thinking people to debate and set an agenda for the political parties to make headway and improve upon the slowdown in agriculture, industrial and employment sector. The Planning Commission of India has projected an alarming state of unemployment in Punjab. The major part of this unemployment is expected to be amongst the youth particularly among the educated class. Along with unemployment, there is a high level of underemployment among those who are engaged in agriculture sector in the state.
The economic condition of Punjab has been gradually deteriorating, if we look at the per capita income (PCI) in the last two decades. Punjab recorded the highest PCI in 1993-94 amongst all the major states in India but by 1997-98 Maharashtra overtook Punjab. In 2003-04 Maharashtra and Gujarat marched ahead and overtook Punjab in PCI. After a decade ( in 2013-14 ) Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Sikkim and Himachal Pradesh left Punjab far behind in PCI.
Punjab’s fiscal situation is also showing down-word trend, if compared with other states. The gross fiscal deficit (GFD; total expenditure minus revenue receipts) was 2.6 per cent of the state output (GSDP) as compared to 2.5 per cent for all states in 2013-14. The
outstanding debt of Punjab is 32 per cent of GSDP as compared to 21 per cent for all states. The impact is visible on growth-oriented capital expenditure -in Punjab it is 1.4 per cent of GSDP as compared to 2.6 per cent for all states.
The unidirectional decline in the relative economic position of Punjab has implications for employment and welfare of the local population. If we look at other growth indicators like the unemployment rate in recent years, it tells the real picture. Over the years employment opportunities in Punjab have reduced if compared to Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Sikkim and Himachal Pradesh. If we look at other social indicators like child-sex ratio, which has implications for future workforce participation, Punjab’s record is dismal.
The decline is reflected in investment in various sectors in Punjab. The new investment in industry, construction, hotels, tourism and other supporting services has now moved to richer states and regions in pursuit of better opportunities and higher returns and Punjab is left high and dry.
The elections will throw new challenges for the any government which comes to power in 2017. The new government will find it hard to implement corrective proposals in the 2017 budget as it will hardly get any time to cobble the declining position of the Punjab economy. Transparency and honesty will be required to identify specific reasons for the slippage in the economic position of Punjab.
The new government will have to prepare a vision document and set up time bond milestones for Punjab’s recovery, based on wider consultations with economists and determine a strategy which can lead Punjab on the road to recovery and growth.
28 Feb 2020
29 Feb 2020