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Sunday, November 29, 2020

Explained Ideas: What the next government in Bihar must do

Bihar Elections 2020: Lessons have to be learnt from the past, difficult decisions taken, and quick-fixes avoided, writes U K Sinha.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: November 10, 2020 8:05:33 am
Bihar Election Results, Bihar results, Bihar, Bihar government, Bihar politics, UK Sinha on Bihar, Indian ExpressVoters wait to cast their votes at a flooded polling station during the second phase of Assembly elections, at Taraiya in Saran district, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. (PTI Photo)

U K Sinha, a former chairperson of SEBI, finds a massive disconnect between what Bihar needs and what various political parties promise. “Lift the hood and the statistics are stark: Bihar’s per capita net state domestic product in 2019-20 was just Rs 46,664, against the national average of Rs 1,34,226: A mere 34.7 per cent,” he states.

While agricultural production has shown encouraging improvement, Bihar does not manufacture anything of consequence. Poverty continues to be high and unemployment much above the national average.

The manufacturing sector’s contribution to Bihar’s economy is just 8.7 per cent of the national average. Data for 2017-18 shows that a mere 1.5 per cent of the nation’s factories are registered in Bihar; the needle on fixed capital formation has remained static on 0.6 per cent for over a decade.

FDI in the state in 2019-20 was a mere 0.01 per cent of the national average, and Bihar’s rank in ease of doing business was 26 in 2019. Entrepreneurship seems to be systematically discouraged in the state.

Bihar is the only major state in the country from where not a single company was trading on the BSE or NSE in 2017. Private equity or venture fund investments in the state are nearly nil.

“But a look at the manifestos in this election paints a disappointing picture,” states Sinha.

The BJP has promised to create conditions for 19 lakh jobs — 4 lakh directly in government — and provide free COVID vaccines for all. The RJD has promised 10 lakh direct jobs in the government, loan waiver for farmers and unemployment allowance to the youth. The Congress and JD(U) have promised unemployment allowance and farm loan waiver. The LJP has promised to construct a Sita temple, among other things.

“Is that the best we can do for the people of Bihar? Temples, loan waivers and unemployment benefits? Is this the future Biharis are clamouring for?” he asks.

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Moreover, besides the obvious worry (who pays for this), a key concern is the state’s capacity to even execute these promises.

“The next government must tackle head-on the reluctance amongst all the political parties to grapple with fundamental issues of economic stagnation, lack of employment opportunities, absence of private investment and administrative decline. The solutions will require deep structural changes, often difficult and unpopular,” he concludes.

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