GUWAHATI, April 26 - Even as he acknowledged that Assam has made �significant progress� in achieving a much higher growth rate in the last couple of years, chairman of the 15th Finance Commission NK Singh today said the State needs to grow at �double digit numbers� in the next decade for enabling its per capita income to catch up with the national average.
He said Assam, over the last two/ three years, has made signification progress �in improving its own revenue, meeting the �daunting and difficult� fiscal targets and maintaining overall macro-economic stability.
�But it is a long way to go for the state to realise, its high growth potential. Besides catching up with the all-India per capital income, the State also needs to catch up with the national average on some other key indicators like education, health, etc., particularly in terms of the outcome,� Singh said, addressing a press conference on the sidelines of a series of meetings with stakeholders here. The Fifteenth Finance Commission is on a three-day visit to the State, which concludes tomorrow.
He also said the State needs to improve the quality of expenditure, when it comes to capital expenditure as a percentage of total expenditure to meet the �infrastructure requirement�.
�Strides have been made in the power sector, but what needs improvement is the power availability, while bringing down the transmission and distribution losses and ensuring 100 per cent compulsory meter usage,� Singh said.
He admitted that natural disasters are a major challenge the State is facing and said the commission has �empathy� to the �creative idea of the Chief Minister of giving Majuli some significance�.
�We will have to work on more tangible proposals on that. We will have to see what can be done in the broader framework of the entire ecological issues relating to the Brahmaputra river. We need to take a holistic view,� he said.
Singh said there are issues on losses the State suffered due to the transition to the GST, which have been brought to the notice of the commission �which will be studied in greater details.�
�We will have to have an appropriate kind of mechanism to ensure that the recent growth momentum achieved by the State is not slowed down because of this,� he said.
Asked about the losses the State suffered due to withdrawal of the special category status, Singh said the matter was pointed out by the State Government though the issue �does not come under the purview of the terms of reference of the commission.�
�The 90:10 funding pattern in case of Central schemes has not been tampered with. But yes, there are issues related to externally aided projects, issues of uncertainty and consequences arising out of the abolition of the Planning Commission in terms of some of the devolution the Planning Commission made like plan assistances. We need to study these issues carefully before coming to a conclusion,� he added.
An Assam Government official said the State suffered losses to the tune of Rs 8,400 crore due to abolition of the special category status during the period of 14th Finance Commission.
The 15th Finance Commission has been asked to submit its report by the end of October 2019. The commission will review the current status of the finance, deficit, debt levels, cash balances and fiscal discipline efforts of the Union and the States. It will also recommend a fiscal consolidation road map for sound fiscal management. As per Article 280 of the Constitution, the commission is required to make recommendations on the distribution of the net proceeds of taxes between the Centre and the States.
The 15th Finance Commission will cover a five-year period commencing on April 1, 2020.