Odisha made significant progress, yet lot needs to be done: Finance Commission

Bhubaneswar: Following an interactive session with the Odisha government and other important stakeholders here in Bhubaneswar, Chairman of the 15th Finance Commission, Nand Kishore Singh today drew a few broad conclusions from his discussions and stated that though Odisha has made significant progress in various sectors, a lot more needs to be done to bring the growth level at par with the overall national growth average.

“Very significant progress has been made in reducing poverty in Odisha, although poverty numbers still continue to be significantly higher than the national average. The per capita income too has seen significant improvement, but it still has a long way to go before it catches up with the national average per capita income,” Singh said.

“Given its political stability and leadership, Odisha is on a high growth trajectory and it will be the Commission’s endeavour to try and strengthen the State’s efforts for long-term sustained development and well balanced economic growth which enables Odisha’s comparative factor advantages to be fully realised in terms of downstream manufacturing activity and job creation capabilities. The augmentation of agricultural sector will have a very important role to play,” he added.

In terms of the social indicators of progress, in spite of the very significant improvement in many health indices, there are some, where more progress is required. Strengthening in terms of total number of medical colleges, improving the average availability of doctors for segments of population can be a solution.

Right now, the availability of one doctor for 8,000-10,000 people is not really a welcome picture. So, increasing the number of functioning medical institutes, changing and fine-tuning regulatory structures which will enable more doctors, paramedics and make primary health centres more accountable is required, the Chairman pointed.

Similarly, in education, remarkable progress has been made in terms of overall literacy ratio. Nonetheless, in improving the outcomes of higher secondary and upper primary and other higher educational institutions, lot more needs to be done, he said.

“In terms of growth rates over past years, Odisha has achieved rates significantly higher than national average of 10 % plus, but it has exhibited significant volatility and lack of consistency in growth trends, where in one or two years, the growth level dipped well below the acceptable levels. It could be on account of natural disasters, and this could be one particular mitigating factor,” Singh stated.

In the area of agriculture, an enormous amount of effort is going into improving lift irrigation and other innovative agriculture practices, but the commission found out that much more needs to be done in terms of crop diversification and improvement of yields of paddy and other crops. “And since the contribution of the primary sector continues to be large, this is an area where I think we would be happier to see much greater and more significant progress,” he mentioned.

Singh further said, “On the overall story of the factor endowments, we all know that Odisha has over 72% of India’s mineral resources, but the contribution of the manufacturing sector in relation to its mineral resources, continues to be rather modest.”

On overall financial management, credit has to be given to the State government, and they have done a commendable exercise in improving their financial parameters significantly in the recent years, he said.

All in all, disaster management continues to be a very important challenge for the State and Odisha has earned a global praise for the success it achieved in minimising its adverse effects on infrastructure and human life.

Speaking on the suggestions made by Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik earlier today, the chairman said, “Some specific proposals have been placed before the Commission on strengthening the disaster mitigation strategy, disaster prevention strategy and disaster management in general, including the amounts of resources made available for State Disaster Management Funds. We will look at these proposals in a constructive spirit.”