Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

J&K's 2008-09 Budget: eye-popping Rs.18,443 crores, but no stimulus for agriculture in Kashmir's largely agrarian economy

Nissar Bhat dissects the J&K Annual Budget and finds it lacking towards infrastructure development and agri-sector, while deepening the dependency syndrome.

(Mr. Nissar Ahmad Bhat, 38, was born and raised in Srinagar. He graduated from the Islamiya College of Science and Commerce, Srinagar, with a degree in B. Comm. His interests are reading and writing and is presently employed as a journalist.)

Of fiscal consolidation and correction


Srinagar, Jan 16: The budget 2008-09 presented in the state assembly today has come amid certain positive pointers like a fully funded Rs 4500 crore budget, an enhanced Rs 25,834 crore 11th five year plan, a considerably good revenue growth and a little bit containment of expenditures in the state. With these positive indicators should we believe then the state is limping towards the goal of fiscal correction and consolidation? Let us try to find out the answer.

To begin with, our experience with past budgets is not too healthy. Besides the critical challenges in economic and social areas hobbling state’s overall growth – that we continue to grapple with – the successive budgets while failing to forecast the formidable challenges emerging in a weak economy, like we have in J&K, did not devise long term measures as would strengthen and create self-sufficiency element in the state economy.

With budgets losing sight to trigger internal resource mobilization and contain unproductive expenditures, the dependency syndrome in J&K economy has seen a sustained elasticity.

Even as the current fiscal has made a positive shift in terms of enhancing the internal revenues, the burgeoning fiscal deficit that represents the growing borrowing requirement of the government continues to be an area of concern. Despite some increase in the state’s own tax revenue and share in central taxes, the outstanding liabilities as per cent of the gross state domestic product were at 60 per cent in previous fiscal. No wonder then J&K is far from achieving the goal of posting a revenue balance and reducing the ratio of gross fiscal deficit-gross state domestic product to three per cent by 2009-10 set forth by the twelfth finance commission while stressing for fiscal correction strategy in the states.

The two areas of concern other than the power where the liability has witnessed a sustained increase over the years are the pension and interest payments. While the interest payment and serving of debt in 1973-74 stood at Rs 14.75 crore, this increased to a whopping Rs 1100 crore in 2004-05. Similarly the pension liability grew from a mere Rs 1.58 crore in 1973-74 to Rs 630 crore in 2004-05.

The interest payments as percentage of total revenue expenditure have hardly seen any decline. While in 1998-99 the percentage of interest payments to total revenue expenditure stood at 13.54, in 2006-07 it was at 14.03 per cent. The budgets have hardly contained this growing liability. Even as the liabilities as percentage of gross domestic product have seen a decline from 81 per cent yet in 2006-07 it was at 60.1 per cent. From the gross fiscal deficit of Rs 96.6 crores in 1995-96, it escalated to over Rs 1200 2006-07.

The recent economic survey has rightly underlined the main areas of concern viz. unemployment, high power deficit, law rate of investment in agriculture. The finance minister recently said more than the fiscal deficit what concerns “us all is the huge infrastructure deficit.”

To have an idea of our infrastructure deficiency, two examples would do: When it comes to the road length - an enhancement of 1000 kilometers road length augments the income of the people by Rs 1000 - J&K has just 35.17 kilometers road length per 100 square kilometers. Similarly the state is facing the health infrastructure deficiency that the previous budgets have hardly sought to make up. We have just 111 hospital beds for the one lakh population and the ratio of doctors is 48:100,000.

It is not just that low outlays have gone into infrastructure development, we have also been lagging in social sector development. While in 1996-97 the social sector expenditure to total expenditure was 34.6 per cent, it declined to 28.2 per cent in 2006-07. When it comes to agri-sector, the position is not encouraging. With our failure to transform our archaic agri-based industry into a modernized one, the state’s production capacity has come down considerably. Not that alone, we have quite little to celebrate about other allied sectors including animal husbandry, milk supply, diary, forest and soil conservation and fisheries.

While over past some time the government has sought to mobilize the resources within the state, yet the populist compulsions have restrained it from going a whole hog. The entertainment industry for example, which indeed is buzzing in the current world has hardly added anything to the state kitty. Over the years the realization in this sector has dwindled. While in 1998-99 the entertainment tax realized by the state was Rs 3.27 crore in 2004-05 it was just Rs 86,000.

Thursday, January 17, 2008
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