Kashmir Scan May 2014

Report Card of the Government: 2009-2013

 The state is worse off on every single measurable indicator compared to 2009

  By HASEEB A DRABU

omar_abdullah_20110912The world over, incumbent governments go to the polls on the basis of their performance and programs. Oppositions go to the polls on the basis of their promises and policies. In J&K it is quite the opposite.
The opposition, PDP, has gone into the polls based on their past performance of three years in office and their manifesto for the Parliament. The NC-Congress combine has so far run a single point negative campaign.
Even as the state is midway into the parliamentary polls, there has not been an iota of discussion on how this collation government has performed. Less so on what their plans for the Parliament are.
What has been the governance track record of the National Conference-Congress coalition in the state so far? How has its economic performance been?  What have been the political milestones that it has achieved?
In the Governor’s address, which is supposed to be a laundry list of the government’s achievements, “satisfaction” on the performance of the state government is expressed only once in the speech. Para 22 of the Governor’s address reads, “It is a matter of immense satisfaction that “India Today”, the premier news magazine, has conferred the “Best State Award” in 2013 to our State for improvement in infrastructure development”.
The state government treats this rating so seriously that in 2011 Chief Minister Omar Abdullah personally went to receive the award for “Best State Award” for improvements in the health sector.
With the state government having endorsed these ratings and the implied performance therein, it might be worthwhile to use these very ratings to assess the performance of this government over thelast five years.
To be sure, this performance assessment has been done by an independent third party, whose assessment the state government not only accepts but lauds all across.
The annual study of state government done by India Today ranks the 20 major states in India in order of their performance. It gives a snapshot picture of how each state has performed on eight major indicators in relation to each other. Based on these eight indicators, an overall composite ranking of the states’ performance is arrived at.
The overall ranking of J&K, under the current coalition government has dropped from being number 7th in 2009 to now being the 10th ranked state.
It is instructive to note that between 2005 and 2009, the ranking of the state, under the previous coalition, had improved from being 10th ranked to being ranked 7th. What this means that J&K has gone back to where it was in 2005. The gains that it has made during the previous coalition have all been dissipated.
Of the eight indicators that India Today bases its overall state rankings, J&K in 2013 is worse off on every single parameter except one, compared to 2009 when the present government took over.
As the accompanying table shows, except in healthcare the ranking of the state has seen deterioration all across.
For instance, in governance, J&K ranked 11th in 2009 has slipped to the 14th rank. In infrastructure, it was ranked 9th when the incumbent government took over. Five years later, it has dropped to the 14th rank.
All this points to the fact that this government has not been able to deliver on any front no matter which area you choose to look at.

Ranking of J&K: An all-round failure
2005 2009 2013
1 Agriculture 15 14 17
2 Consumer Markets 8 5 10
3 Education 8 4 7
4 Governance 17 11 14
5 Health 5 2 1
6 Infrastructure 9 9 12
7 Investment 10 9 10
8 Macro-economy 7 5 6
Overall 10 7 10
Source: India Today State Ranking.
As against this, the previous coalition government saw an improvement in every single sphere. The most remarkable improvement during the previous regime was in governance. In a matter of three years the governance rank of the state improved from 17th rank to 11th rank.
In the case of education, the ranking of J&K improved from 8th to 4th.  In health, J&K improved from being ranked number 5th to being ranked 2nd among the twenty states. As a consequence of these improvements, the ranking of J&K improved three notches from being 10th to being to 7th.
In the next five years all the gains of the previous coalition have been negated by the present government and the state has slipped back to the number 10 spot.
As regards the fiscal performance of the state, an area not covered explicitly by these ranking the less said the better. There are only two major variables that are critical in a state budget: capital expenditure, which lays down the foundation of growth and the non-plan deficit which indicates the financing pattern.
The two are linked in the sense that a lower non-plan deficit allows the government to fund itsinvestment program without creating financial liabilities in the form of borrowings.
This government has failed on both accounts. Its capital expenditure has declined from being 32% when it took over in 2008-9 to just 20% in 2012-13.
To add fiscal insult to financial injury, this government has let the non-plan deficit increase from Rs 2,900 crore in 2008-9 to Rs 9,500 crores in 2014-15: a more than three-fold increase! This deficit has arisen because of a more than doubling of the non-plan revenue expenditure from Rs 11,735 crore to Rs 29,553 crores!
With this kind a dismal performance, it is not surprising the NC is running a completely negative election campaign. This marks a radical departure from its own past. The paratroopers in the party see metaphors in calls to murder, replace vision with vice and performance with propaganda.
It is sad to see that the powerfully positive symbolism of the “plough” is being underplayed and deliberately equated with, indeed overshadowed, by the negative connotations of the contemptible “Lotus” giving it a place and position that it neither has nor deserves in the state.

(The article was earlier published in Greater Kashmir)

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