Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma | File photo

Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma on March 23 presented a deficit budget of Rs 1,592 crore in the assembly, which is around 3.42 of the gross state domestic product (GSDP) for the financial year 2023-24.

Sangma, who also holds the finance portfolio, however, said the state’s economy has been growing at an encouraging pace despite the massive disruptions caused by the pandemic.

“The state’s economy has witnessed a growth of 6.75 percent from 2018-2023 and the year-on-year growth rate for the next year is projected at 11.5 percent. Extrapolating this trend for the next 5 years, I expect the state’s economy to grow to about Rs. 80,000 crore by 2027-28 making Meghalaya a 10 Billion-dollar economy,” Conrad Sangma said.

Sangma, who also holds the finance portfolio, said the state GSDP is estimated at Rs 41,779 crore for this fiscal and for the next fiscal the GSDP is expected to increase to Rs 46,000 crore with a growth rate of 11.5 percent.

He said the revised estimates for the share of central taxes for the current financial year is projected at Rs 7,386 crore which is about 18 per cent higher than the budgetary estimates of Rs 6,264 crore.

“The total central transfers for the current financial year are expected at Rs. 8,706 crore including the Finance Commission devolutions and other transfers from the Centre while excluding scheme-related transfers,” he said.

While thanking Prime Minster Narendra Modi for taking concrete steps towards strengthening the country’s economy, Sangma expects the share of central taxes at Rs 7,834 crore and a total amount of Rs 8,908 crore as central transfers.

The chief minister said the government expenditure has doubled from Rs. 9528 crore during 2017-18 to 20729 crore in 2022-23 due to improved governance and implementation capabilities.

Sangma informed that the funding from externally aided projects increased from Rs. 2,300 crore to over 10,600 crore from 2018 to 2023. He said that 90 per cent of these loans are repaid by the union government on behalf of the state government.

Describing the budget as “people’s budget”, Conrad Sangma said the government’s aim is to make Meghalaya a 10 billion economy with a thrust on infrastructure development.

The government has allotted Rs 2226 crore for the road sector, Rs 15.5 crore for air connectivity, Rs 191 crore for the Information Technology sector, Rs 1805 crore for the health sector and Rs 3412 crore for environmental conservation and climate action.

In the road sector, Sangma said, through the ‘Chief Minister’s Rural Connectivity Scheme,’ road construction not covered under PMGSY would be undertaken.

Moreover, he added that several large road projects costing over Rs 3,000 crore were initiated by the government in the last three years.

For the construction of the new assembly building the government has allotted Rs 35 crore and the government is slated to invest Rs. Rs. 5000 crore in the next five years for building the New Shillong City.

He said the new Shillong city would be built as a futuristic and sustainable city. It will be the hub for knowledge, creativity, culture and sports activities.

In order to ease traffic congestion in Shillong city, the government has procured 30 buses at the cost of Rs. 10 crores. These buses would be used as Shared School Bus System.

In the tourism sector, considered to be the engine of growth for the state, investment close to

Rs. 2000 crore has been committed over the next five years. New tourism circuits, accommodation units, roads and wayside amenities are being finalized. “The Shillong Peak Ropeway will be built at a cost of Rs. 141 crores,” Sangma added.

He said the infrastructure of the healthcare facilities is being upgraded right from the state headquarters to the sub-division level.

He said about the ongoing work at the 19 new health facilities that are under different stages of completion.

Sangma said construction of 78 new sub-centres will be completed by the end of this fiscal, while another 31 new urban health centres and 20 community health centres will be upgraded.

Apart from the cancer wing at the Shillong civil hospital, a similar centre would be established at Tura, West Garo Hills district. Construction work of the Tura medical college is 40 percent complete and a similar college would be established in Shillong.

The government has earmarked Rs 1805 crore for the health sector for 2023-24.

In the education sector, the chief minister announced a total allocation for this fiscal is Rs. 2884 crore, out of which Rs. 2015 crore is earmarked for teachers’ salaries. Nonetheless, new infrastructure in 208 schools and upgrades of another 111 schools is being undertaken.

For women and children, the MOTHER programme and the Chief Ministers’ Safe Motherhood Scheme are being implemented for the reduction in Maternal and Infant Mortality rates. For the assistance of women Self Help Groups, the government has allocated Rs 248 crore for this fiscal, the Sangma said.

Moreover, the state is implementing projects worth Rs 250 crore focusing on environmental sustainability, forest management and water harvesting.

For the youth, various programmes and schemes such as skill development, Chief Minister’s Youth Development scheme is in place for the youth of the state so that they could be meaningfully engaged, the chief minister said.

Sangma informed the house that skill parks are being built and programmes are being implemented at a cost of Rs 70 crore. Additionally, an ecosystem for entrepreneurs is also being created through PRIME start-up hubs.

The grant for startups has been increased from Rs 5 to 7.5 lakh from this fiscal and the loan amount has also increased from Rs 25 to Rs 50 lakh. Adequate focus is also being given to sporting activities through various interventions and infrastructure upgrades, he added.

Over the past five years, the governance in the state has been more efficient, transparent, responsive and people-centric, Sangma said adding that the government is working overtime to improve its performance on various Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations.

The CM said the government has been presenting an SDG budget and this year’s overall budget allocation to achieve SDGs for 2023-24 is Rs 13,145 crore, which is 59 percent of the total budget.

He said the government is contemplating to work out a happiness index and the framework for measuring happiness among the citizens is being formulated which will evaluate indices like per capita income and SDGs.

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