Scaled down

The mid-term evaluation of the current fiscal year budget has revelations of a grimmer kind. The first five months of the fiscal year 2009-10 has cut the the forecast of a modest growth of 5.5 per cent to a revised one of a mere 4 per cent. No doubt, the growth projections made when the budget was presented was ambitious and perhaps unrealistic, but the prevailing situation in the country by all means was not favorable to economic growth at the level desired. For one the elements were harsh with rainfall scanty that played havoc with agricultural yields. Projections were that the agriculture production would increase, but as fate would have it, agriculture which is the major contributor to the GDP, was affected by the reduced downpour during the monsoon, as the farmers mostly depend on rainfall for cultivation. Understandably, this vagary of nature cannot be predicted and is one of the major reasons why the target set could not be achieved. Furthermore, other factors too played significant roles in the goal set not being met, including the liquidity crunch in the market and the increase in imports and reduction in exports. This caused an increasing trade deficit, as did the decline in the remittances attributed also to one of the worst global recessions in this century.

Apart from this, the volatile political situation which was by no means conducive to economic growth was also responsible for this. As a result, there was less utilisation of the allocations on development works than anticipated that explains the sad state of the economy. Although the manufacturing sector reflected some hope, it was not enough to compensate the decline in the production in the agricultural sector. As a result, the government failed to bring down the inflation to the set seven per cent which instead on an average remained at a high of 10.1 in the first six months of the fiscal year. The forex reserve is doing no better as it has been depleted with the import of gold, and the central bank had to intervene by banning the import of the yellow metal. These show that the economy is in a bad shape, and it would be a challenge for the government to fulfill the promises it had made when the budget was presented. Inflation and the balance of payment aside, fluid politics resulting in bandhs, unexplained price increases of essentials, poor market monitoring, slack law and order situation, extended load shedding hours etc, have played havoc with the economy at large.

The hype over the double digit growth has proved a farce. When the budget was presented these must have been realized, and the 5.5 growth rate target projection seems to have been taken for granted courtesy the active monsoon and a reining in of the many constraints as referred to above. However, the grim reality of an apparently faltering ecomomy has made the Finance Minister revise the earlier projections that tried to paint a rosier picture. The economy should not take a back seat despite the preoccupation with politics in this highly delicate transient period. It is for all the stakeholders concerned, particularly the political parties, to create a congenial environment for the economic spurt.

Healthy trick

The “Iodine Month” is on all through February. One might wonder on the need for a month

to celebrate iodine. The evidences are there to

suggest that iodine deficiency does have health

implications including mental retardation, impeded physical growth, speech impairment and the like.

It was foresight that had worked for iodised salt to

be imported from India. That has done much good for the health of the people. The ingenuity of

adding iodine in the required amount to salt, an essential ingredient of almost every food item, has paid off quite well. Even if the nutritional requirement of an individual goes awry because of one reason or the other, one can rest assured that the iodine intake from what is available in the commonly sold salt packets is enough to offset the harms from the deficiency of the non-metallic element.

A look at the past records will show that the iodine deficiency resulted in goiter which was detested because of the way it hampered the so-called perfect appearance. Thankfully, the iodised salt has gone a long way in protecting the health of the people, particularly the pregnant women and the growing children. Cheers to iodine!