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Starved of funds, Tripura eyes tourism for revenue mop-up

Pratim Ranjan Bose Guwahati. April 10 | Updated on April 10, 2019

Tripura’s Deputy Chief Minister Jishnu Dev Varma feels tourism, including health tourism, and entrepreneurship can be of significant help for the State in mitigating dual challenge of finance gap and employment generation.

Dev Varma, who handles the Finance portfolio, blamed the CPI(M)-led Left Front for leaving behind empty coffers without much clue to revenue generation.

Central funds

As a North-East State, more than 85 per cent of Tripura’s Budget is dependent on receipts from the Centre. To add to the problem, the Left went on an expenditure spree in its last days in power, widening the fiscal deficit to nearly 7 per cent in 2017-18.

“The Left Front government started nearly 1,000 projects, worth nearly ₹1,600 crore, without much clue to the source of funds. Central funds were spent in creating white elephants – like 2,000-seater town halls in nondescript places – which incur heavy maintenance cost but cannot help revenue generation,” Dev Varma said.

Failing to do much about entrepreneurship development and industrialisation; the Left front government offered government jobs to 4.39 percent of population, as against the national average of one per cent.

Though employees were denied successive pay commission awards; the wage and pension together accounted 64 percent of the total expenditure in FY18.

The pressure on finances increased during the BJP rule as the State government implemented a compromised form of seventh Pay commission awards which saw wages and pensions increasing by a matrix of 2.57. “The precarious financial condition didn’t allow us to do more,” he admits.

Dev Varma is clear that the State can no longer depend on government jobs for employment generation and must encourage private entrepreneurship. A definite solution in this regard is tourism which was neglected in the past, as Tripura doesn’t exist in the tourism map of the country.

Religious tourism

“We do not have the infrastructure or capacity to attract value tourists at this juncture. As a low hanging fruit, we are aiming to develop religious tourism. Even if we can attract a share of the traffic to Kamakhya temple in Assam, the impact will be felt in the local economy,” he said.

With Centre approving two more airports in the State, there is future potential to develop leisure or adventure tourism in the hilly tribal dominated parts of the State.

Published on April 10, 2019

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