India’s Budget 2014-15 and Tourism Sector: The Story of Directionless Allocations Continues
Finally, 10th of July 2014 arrived – the long awaited day for India’s new government’s budget announcement day. The day had immense significance to everyone, looking for a new thoughtful direction from the new government. Keeping in mind the key purpose of his blogspace, I intend to discuss the key inferences for the tourism sector only, without entering into the debate whether the budget has given a direction towards building strong fundamentals for long term growth of the country.
We all know that tourism sector is one of the key industry in terms of generating employment and income apart from being one of the largest foreign exchange earner for the country. The sector can also play a magical role in developing local level economy if policy orientation is in right direction. The sector is in fact comparable with the ‘hen lays golden eggs’ of the childhood story all of us are familiar with. However, the simplest yet decisive moral of the story, perhaps, remembered seldom since we all learn it during childhood.
Indian tourism sector also faces the same fate. Since it delivers significantly without any effort from the authorities, all we do is how to churn it for earning more and more without thinking of providing due attention for its long term sustenance. This can simply be demonstrated by the fact that no National Tourism Policy was developed in India after 2002. Years after years the sector has seen budget allocations, which reflected only negligence or ignorance rather than building a concrete direction towards addressing the fundamentals of the sector. This year’s budget is also no different compared to other years though the government is new and apparently looking for long term growth prospect rather than going by populist ones.
Total budget allocation for tourism sector during 2014-15 is Rs. 1100 crore or Rs. 110 million. (I have included allocations which may relate to tourism sector indirectly). This constitutes only 0.06% of total budget allocation for the year. Following are the break-up of allocations:
1. Rs. 200 crore (INR 20 Million) – to build the Statue of unity (National project) (perhaps we are thinking of creating a national statue that will be as famous as statue of liberty!!!!)
2. Facility of Electronic Travel Authorization (e-Visa) to be introduced in phased manner at nine airports in India. (certainly a good step, however, just to facilitate hassle free arrivals)
3. Countries to which the Electronic Travel authorisation facility would be extended would be identified in a phased manner.
4. Rs. 500 crore (INR 50 million) provided for developing 5 tourist circuits around specific themes. (same old story we see every year!!!)
5. Rs. 100 crore (INR 10 million) provided for National Mission on Pilgrimage rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive (PRASAD). – (No comments, especially after Kedarnath episode where thousands of pilgrims are still in missing list!!!!!)
6. Rs. 200 (INR 20 million) crore provided for National Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY). (another new scheme!!)
7. Rs. 100 crore (INR 10 million) provided for Archaeological sites preservation. (perhaps the only sensible one)
8. Sarnath-Gaya-Varanasi Buddhist circuit to be developed with world class tourist amenities to attract tourists from all over the world (again, the same old one going on for more than last 10 years. And, UP government is already undertaken an study how to develop this circuit!!)
What is the net gain for tourism sector? To me, its nothing except some million INR, which no one knows how much will be spent fruitfully. When climate change and environment is key agenda for development, and, tourism sector contributes more than 5% of total carbon foot print, no direction is given toward how to save tourism destinations but attracting and exploiting it. The budget did not talk about green accommodation, green taxes, strategies regarding preserving at the same time develpoing sustainable tourism centering National Parks, controlling pollution in toruism destination and many other areas that need to address in immediate basis.
Is this because of the fact that tourism sector is much more complex and complicated compared other industries that we do not have enough capacity to think of a holistic planning for the sector? Or, is it that when without giving attention a sector is able to fetch enough revenue, why to waste time on that? I do not know the answer. But, apparantly this year’s budget indicates that the same tradition continues, irrespective of chnages seen in political vortex!