Odisha: Still a long way to go

”It is a proud moment of all of us; I dedicate this award to the Four Crore People of Odisha. We are on the right path. I will get satisfaction when our Odisha becomes the number one State in the country”, exhorted   Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik while receiving the ‘Outlook Speak out Award-2017’ as the best Administrator in the country.

Agreeing that the government is in the habit of getting such national awards frequently, the question is how exemplary has been Odisha’s turn around in the past seventeen years? Has it got rid of the ‘most backward state’ tag yet? Has the state actually set a new paradigm of development and economic growth? How real have been the pointers of achievement?

Figures should speak out.

The size of state’s economy has grown bigger by 22.27% in the last six years. It has registered an economic growth of nearly 8% in FY 2016-17. Today Odisha is a fiscal surplus state and is also the most favoured destination for investment in the country.

The state has recorded one of the sharpest drops in poverty in the country with 80 lakh people raised above the poverty line. The poverty in Odisha has declined by 24.61 percentage point from 57.2% in 2004-05 to 39.59% the higher reduction among major states.

Odisha’s agricultural transformation has been beyond compare. From a state fully dependent on neighbouring states even for its minimum food requirements, it has not only become self sufficient in food grain production but also plays a vital role in ensuring food security for the people in the country. Once an importer of rice, it is now the third largest contributor to the public distribution system.

Odisha is the only state in the country to have doubled farmer’s income in the last 10 years. Sustained efforts for agricultural developments through pro-farmer policies, irrigation expansion and technology infusion has resulted in winning National Krushi Karman Award four times in the last five years.

As for, human development indicators the surge has been astounding. The State has registered the highest rate of decline in Infant Mortality Rate in the country since 2000. From being the highest IMR rate it has now brought down the rate to 40 per 1000 births, which is lower than the National average of 41.

Even with these comforting parameters, Odisha has a long way to go.

A recent study by the Assocham entitled ‘Odisha – Economic Growth & Investment performance analysis: FY 12-17’ says  that Odisha had attracted over 900 projects with live investments worth over Rs 13 lakh crore as of FY17. With over 11 per cent share, Maharashtra led the pack and was followed by Gujarat at 8.5 per cent.

Lauding the efforts of the state government for its proactive approach towards consequential implementation of investment intentions, the study further says that  rate of under-implementation of live projects has drastically declined over the years.

Sector-wise, manufacturing sector accounted for the highest share of 42.5 per cent in the total live investments  followed by electricity (about 31 per cent), non-financial services (about 14 per cent) and mining (nine per cent).

The study concludes that, ‘Odisha should continue taking up implementation of projects on a war footing as that would further serve as incentive for industry, attract domestic and global investors in larger numbers, generate jobs and lead to holistic development of the state.’

Retospectively, Odisha’s economy has been on a high-growth trajectory after lagging the national average for decades. From 2003, the state registered growth of above 8 per cent as against the national average of 7.5 per cent.

The Economic Survey presented in the state assembly on eve of the budget session had clearly indicated that the per capita income reached Rs 61,678 in 2016-17, climbing 7.05 per cent from Rs 57,616 in 2015-16.

Odisha’s real GSDP has reached Rs 3.14 lakh crore in 2016-17. Industry contributed 36.56 per cent to the state’s GSDP against the pan-India average of 28.81 per cent. The share of agriculture rose to 19.91 per cent in 2016-17 from 18.68 per cent in 2015-16.

The services sector has the largest share of the state’s GSDP. The sector is expected to grow 8.08 per cent in 2016-17. Trade, hotels and restaurants is the leading contributor in services with a 10.99 per cent share. In this otherwise happy scenario, only the laggard has been the manufacturing sector.

Despite the government claiming to have provided business-friendly environment to investors and attracting huge investments in past decade-and-a-half, Odisha has been categorised as a low-growth State in the country in the latest NITI Aayog survey.

The NITI Aayog’s ‘Ease of Doing Business Report: An Enterprise Survey of Indian States’ points at more hurdles in setting up new businesses in Odisha compared to other States. The 15-high growth States include Bihar, Uttarakhand, Tripura, Sikkim and Meghalaya.

According to experts, Odisha needs to do more to fight poverty.It has enjoyed long period of political stability and continuity of its economic policies since March 2000, when Naveen Patnaik took over as chief minister for the first time.

Obviously, it can’t afford to misplace the opportunities coming its way. Just three interventions, proclaim experts, can bring rich dividends and alleviate poverty much faster. They are: tapping groundwater irrigation through solar power, providing smooth roads, and incentivising diversification toward high-value agriculture.

Bhaskar Parichha

Bhaskar Parichha is a Bhubaneswar-based senior journalist and author. He writes on almost every conceivable topic but is more obsessive about   writings on society and culture.