State's growth: Truth or mirage?

Mar 18, 2017, 08:14 IST | Dharmendra Jore

On the eve of the Assembly's Budget Session, Economic Survey projects growth rate of 9.4%, opposition claims stats are misleading

FM Sudhir Mungantiwar and minister Deepak Kesarkar at Mantralaya on Friday
FM Sudhir Mungantiwar and minister Deepak Kesarkar at Mantralaya on Friday

For those disheartened by the news that the farmer loan waiver can't be afforded by the state due to paucity of funds, here's some heartening news. Projections of the state economic survey for 2016-17 suggest that not only is the state economy expected to grow faster at a rate of 9.4% over last year, even the agriculture and allied activities could see a 12.5% rate of growth.

Make it double digits soon
The survey was presented in the State Legislature a day before the annual budget is tabled on Saturday. Interestingly, Maharashtra's growth forecast is two per cent more than the country's expected rate of 7.1%.

Finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said that the achievement was laudable because the when the BJP took over the state from Congress and NCP in 2014, the state's growth rate was pegged at just 5.4%. “While other states showed stagnancy,” he said, “Maharashtra has improved in the past two years. And we are confident we can take it up to double digits by next year,” crediting it to good policy-making and implementation.

However, it is prudent to note that the state faces an agrarian crisis and the government is struggling to meet a demand for a loan waiver worth R30,500 crore, but after a dry spell of two years, the fortunes are expected to turn around.

As per the survey, the kharif production of cereals, pulses, oilseeds and cotton is expected to increase by 80%, 187% and 83%, respectively, yet the production of sugarcane is expected to plunge by 28% because of decreasing area under cultivation. The rabbi production of these items is expected to increase too.

Though the survey says that the potential area under irrigation has decreased because of consecutive drought years, the report keeps mum over the contentious issue of overall increase in irrigated area of the state.

The issue had created a controversy in 2012, when then CM Prithviraj Chavan had accused the NCP of plundering money in the irrigation sector wherein an investment of Rs 70,000 crore had increased the irrigation potential just by 0.1% in 10 years. Interestingly, after a white paper assessment, the economic surveys thereafter stopped mentioning the growth of this sector. Brushing it under the carpet, Munganttiwar said a committee had recommended new ways of measuring the irrigation potential achievement, adding, “We may have it next year”.

Munde says 'misleading'
Meanwhile, leader of Opposition in the Counil, Dhananjay Munde said it was surprising that the irrigation statistics were not given despite the government's claim that it had spent R15,000 in this sector over the last two years. “Whom should we trust?” he asked.

Additionally, even as the finance minister claimed that Maharashtra's industries were topping the countrywide ratings with a 20.5% share in the country's total investment, Munde said the survey did not say anything concrete about the investment proposed under the Make in India programme. “The micro, small, medium enterprises have lost half their investments, exports are down and 2 lakh people are unemployed. The state is lagging behind Gujarat in overall investment and its per capita income is less than Karnataka's,” said Munde.

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