Tripura and northeast India should attract private capital since merely relying on higher public outlay would stretch the debt profile and fiscal deficit profile of the state, said 15th Finance Commission Chairman Nand Kishore Singh.
A 15-member delegation of the XV Finance Commission led by Singh arrived at Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Airport at Agartala on Wednesday. The delegates met all stakeholders, including the state government, autonomous bodies, trade and political delegations during their stay here and told reporters in a press conference that Finance Commission recommendations would be submitted with a sympathetic view to the state’s needs and economy.
“The Finance Commission recognises special challenges of Tripura and we shall take a very sympathetic view to Tripura’s needs and economy. The state government has presented a detailed memorandum to us and said they were rather disappointed with the previous Finance Commission. We shall try to put correctives in place,” Singh said.
A statement from the state government informed that their memo made a strong pitch for increased devolution to set up better infrastructure, especially in health, information technology, power, education, tourism, disaster mitigation and other sectors.
Among major demands, Tripura has asked for 50 per cent devolution of the Divisible Pool, non-tax revenues like spectrum auction, oil and gas royalty to form part of the Divisible Pool, increased devolution to manage Tripura’s forest cover as 60 per cent of its land is under forest management of its very long international border with Bangladesh and other issues.
The state government stressed on four points, including the need to strengthen access to seaport at Chittagong in adjoining Bangladesh to make Tripura a maritime hub for northeast India, improve road connectivity to boost tourism, capitalise on Tripura’s comparative factor advantages in skilled manpower and agro-related industries and granting a host of specific projects aimed to fulfill aspirations of the state’s tribal communities.
Referring to Tripura’s plea, Finance Commission’s chairman said, “We fully share the vision of Chief Minister and Governor of Tripura to make it a model state. The new leadership of Tripura is committed to make it a fair contributor in the development of the nation. Tripura’s growth trajectory is sound.”
However, when asked about plans of revising the tax base for erstwhile special category states in northeast India, Singh said he feels all these states will have to become more reliant on their own resources in future.
“The Government of India has formulated a policy for states to depend more on own income. This needs to be continued and deepened in the months ahead,” Singh said. He also said that Tripura, apart from Assam, has the highest density of population in the northeast region, indicating its revenue generation potential through human resource.
Singh praised the Biplab Deb government for “effective measures” taken during the last 10 months in office. He said the incumbent government in Tripura has got plans for overall human resource development which would help Tripura harness its human resource potential.
“After Assam, Tripura has got the highest density in terms of population in NE India. The state government has a human resource development plan, which will contribute in making Tripura harness the huge HR talent,” he said.
The Finance Commission chief also mentioned Tripura’s potential as a healthcare hub for attracting people from neighbouring countries, including Bangladesh, who now have to travel to different distant states for treatment.
About Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb’s plans to develop Tripura as an IT and biotechnology hub, Singh said they were “imaginative plans” but extended full support.
The Finance Commission team has visited most northeast Indian states except Meghalaya, Mizoram and Sikkim, where they have plans to visit soon.