Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Nagaland Assembly passes Rs.23,086 cr budget for 2023-24


Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA) on Tuesday passed the Rs 23,086.66 crore budget for the financial year 2023-24 on the last day of the first session of 14th NLA by a voice vote.
The budget, with an estimated deficit of Rs 1,374.17 crore, was presented in the House on Monday by chief minister Neiphiu Rio, who also hold the Finance portfolio. None of the members had put any cut motions to the demand for grants made in the budget. The budget was passed by voice vote to the Nagaland Appropriation (No. 2) Bill, 2023 moved by Rio.
The Bill authorised payment and appropriation of the amount from and out of the consolidated fund of the State to services of the year ending March 31, 2024.
The House also passed the supplementary demands for grants for 2022-23 amounting to Rs 1,852.98 crore through the Nagaland Appropriation (No. 1) Bill, 2023, which was also presented by Rio. The MLAs did not put up any cut motions on this demand too.
Meanwhile, responding to the discussion on the budget, the chief minister claimed that the State’s finances had shown substantive improvement in the last few years, noting that despite the damage to the economy caused by Covid-19 pandemic, the Budget of 2022-23 showed a positive balance of Rs 150.30 crore in the Current Account transactions.
Even in the budget for the year 2023-24, he pointed out that there was a positive balance of Rs 60 crore in the Current Account transactions only due to high withdrawals in GPF the current transactions show a minus balance of Rs 40 crore.
He disclosed that the State government was working to undertake a rationalisation exercise to address the issue of shortages of teachers in government schools. He clarified that externally-aided project NECTAR, the Lighthouse Project, funded by World Bank under the School Education Department was mainly for governance and management of school’s ecosystem and that there was no scope for appointment of teachers under this.
Noting that many schools faced teacher shortages due to absenteeism, he said the issue would be addressed through the introduction of Teacher Attendance Monitoring App during the current year.
On the request of legislator Kuzholuzo Nienu to change the designation of advisers to ministers of state to enable them to take the responsibility of departments, Rio mentioned that the issue needed to be discussed and that it was beyond the State’s purview since the court had already struck down the nomenclature parliamentary secretary.
For a small State like Nagaland, he pointed out that the council of ministers was limited to chief minister and 11 other ministers. Nonetheless, he explained that advisers were accommodated to have representation from all tribes in the government.“It will have to be examined from a legal perspective to ascertain whether such a move is possible. We have to remember that there is the issue of ‘Office of Profit’ that may invite disqualification if we are not careful,” he cautioned.
Rio admitted to have omitted JDU in his speech vis-à-vis the support extended by all political parties to the government. “This is due to an inadvertent omission which is sincerely regretted. I request that this may be corrected in the records,” he remarked.
He welcomed the suggestion that the Finance Department brief the MLAs on the financial matter, stating that the department was prepared to brief them in case they so desired, after the close of the financial year.
On incomplete projects, he informed the House that to make the main athletic stadium in the Multi-Disciplinary Sports Complex (MDSC) at Dimapur functional, a DPR project a cost of Rs 177 crore was prepared, out of which Rs 20 crore had already been provided under Special Assistance during 2022-23. “We will consider more allocation of funds in the coming days based on work progress,” he assured.
He said Rs 30 crore had been provided under Special Assistance during 2022-23 for constructing new High Court building and based on the work progress, the government would consider releasing more funds in the coming days.
The two multi-level parking in Kohima were completed under Kohima Smart City Development Limited and were ready for inauguration.
On the issue of GST, Rio clarified that Section 43 had been omitted in its entirety while Section 41 was intact. He informed the legislators that the State Finance Department would examine advance release of GST bills.
He said oil and natural gas exploration and extraction were very crucial for development of the State. He alleged that for many years Assam had been granting licences in DAB areas citing these as reserved forests, to which Nagaland had always objected to.
Hence, he claimed that at the insistence of Nagaland government and the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Assam had agreed to sharing of royalties in DAB areas A, B and C on a 50:50 basis for licenses already granted by Assam.
“We have also demanded that this dispensation should cover D, E, and F sectors of DAB as well,” he said, adding that in case it was not possible to agree to this arrangement, “we have also agreed to keep the royalty amounting in ESCROW accounts till such time the matter was amicably resolved.”
“We have always taken the stand that first the matter in DAB areas should be resolved as Nagaland is already losing a huge amount of revenue,” he added.
Rio informed the House that resumption of oil exploration in rest of the State would be taken up later for which an MOU was to be signed between the State and the Centre whereby the rights of the State under Article 371(A) were adequately protected.
He said the State government was awaiting the opinions of the Central government and advocate general on the matter.
Regarding exploration activities at Tokishe, he clarified that once this came to the knowledge of the government, they were stopped. However, ONGC had requested permission to release the pressure accumulated inside to avoid bursting since it would cause environmental damage.
Referring to the budget, Rio claimed that there was huge improvement in State’s finances due to release of Central sponsored schemes (CSS) backlog as well as Cash Deposit.
In view of improved resources, he mentioned that the State government was able to release the CSS backlog of Rs 728 crore in July 2022 and Rs 150 crore of funds kept in CD in course of the year, leading to a huge reduction in liabilities.
Responding to the issues raised by NPF legislator Achumbemo Kikon, he said the demand for creating Bhandari Sub-divisional and Planning Board (SDPB) and man-animal conflict were being looked into, while increasing of more LADP fund for MLAs from Rs 1.5 crore, including Rs 50 lakh iconic project, would be granted after the economic condition of the State improved.
Expressing his appreciation to all members who offered their valuable views and opinions on the budget, the chief minister concluded his speech by assuring to look into the issues raised and giving these issues importance.
He appealed to the members to continue to make positive contribution to the debates that took place on the floor of the House in the days to come.
Members discuss Budget
Earlier, initiating the discussion on budget, NPF legislator Kuzholuzo Azo Nienu termed the budget pro-people and in in common man’s interest. He suggested that a consultative meeting of all the 60 members be held on the budget and change the nomenclature adviser to minister of State. He further called upon all to do away with “ism” to do justice to all sections of people.
On oil exploration, Azo opined that the government should sit across the table with the Government of Assam and work out the disputed areas so that the revenues came to Nagaland and make the State government a larger stakeholder and generate revenue as the present agreement was not conducive for Nagaland.
LJP legislator Naiba Konyak termed the budget “ENPO friendly” and described it the best ever presented in the Assembly. He also thanked the chief minister for considering the plight of backward tribes and placing ENPO’s demands before the Ministry of Home Affairs.
He appreciated nomenclature “Brand Nagaland” and “Naga Soft Power” mentioned in the budget aimed at promoting excellence in the chosen fields and careers. He also suggested that the students of backward areas be allowed to go for coaching classes with financial assistance by the government as per plans and schemes in the area of capacity building. He also appreciated the introduction of Chief Minister’s Health Insurance Scheme (CMHIS) and urged the government to implement it actively.
2023 being the International Year of Millets, Konyak also appealed to the State government to give more importance to the eastern areas since majority of the cultivators practised jhum cultivation and millets were grown on a large scale.
NCP legislator P Longon said Nagas yearned for peace and development after traversing through such a tumultuous journey (Naga political issue) and called upon the government to evolve a consensus on any issue related to the Naga political issue.
He appreciated the budget and appealed to all stakeholders to judiciously utilise funds. He also urged the government to focus more on development of rural areas.
PHED and Cooperation minister N Jacob Zhimomi called for a speedy conclusion of the Naga peace process and urged the Government of Nagaland, being a responsible stakeholder, to involve itself as a party.
He welcomed the launch of CMHIS which he claimed would benefit the middle class, lower middle class and below poverty line (BPL) citizens of the State.
He said huge losses in power sector due to communitisation policy in the rural areas should be checked and improve revenue by installing rechargeable power meters. He also raised the issue of poor telecom services in the State and urged the government to take up the issue with the telecoms.
Fisheries & Aquatic Resources adviser A Pangjung Jamir appraised the House on budget utility for maximum development of the State, to use in a transparent manner.
NPP legislator A Nyamnyei Konyak suggested that hydro projects should be set up in different districts so as to generate more power and revenue. He also sought early completion of the Foothill Road
Food & Civil Supplies and Legal Metrology adviser KT Sukhalu spoke on transfer and posting of government officials, recruitments through NSSB and regulation of Nagaland Liquor Total Prohibition Act, 1989.
School Education and SCERT adviser Dr Kekhrielhoulie Yhome termed the budget as comprehensive with special stress on capacity building, youth-centric initiatives and innovations.
NPF legislator Achumbemo Kikon said the people of the State had been expecting a lot from the present government. He thanked the chief minister and leader of the House on the formation of an opposition-less government.
On LADP, he pointed out that the present allocation was not sufficient to bring any kind of development in the constituencies. Hence, he appealed to the government to look into the matter and enhance the amount from the present allocation of Rs 1.5 crore to Rs 3 crore.
Further, Bhandari being an inspection bungalow since 1957, he suggested formation of “Installation & Introduction of Sub-Divisional Planning & Development Board” under Bhandari sub-division. He urged the government and the department concerned to look into the matter of man-animal conflict in Bhandari sub-division where elephants killed people and damaged properties and cultivation.
On oil exploration and extraction, he requested the government to find out the best possible way to benefit the people with proper understanding of landowners and locals of those particular areas. He suggested initiating a healthy debate on all aspects of liquor prohibition with the church, women, students, etc, and find out the best possible solution.
Transport and Technical Education adviser Temjenmenba described budget as a vital instrument of the government claimed that Budget 2023-2024 emphasised on all sectors. He appealed to all the departments to initiate new ideas and revitalise and reverse the deficit trend, noting that the Budget 2023-2024 was a perfect recipe to create excellence.
NRE and NSDMA adviser Z Nyusietho Nyuthe termed the budget a comprehensive and citizen-oriented. He mentioned that the budget gave equal importance to both urban and rural population. He also appreciated Rio for coming out with a budget that gave importance to youth empowerment.
Environment, Forest & Climate Change and Village Guards minister CL John welcomed the budget, terming it a people’s budget and transparent.


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