| DoNER minister Paban Singh Ghatowar lights the inaugural lamp during the interactive session in Calcutta on Friday. Picture by Kishor Roy Chowdhury |
Calcutta, Sept. 28: DoNER minister Paban Singh Ghatowar today allayed public scepticism about the Northeast and said the region had the potential to become an investors’ paradise with a little support and co-operation.
He said most states in the region had welcomed the recent economic reforms and hoped for healthy foreign investment in retail and other sectors soon.
Ghatowar was addressing the concerns of business heads today at an interactive session, North East India – Investment and Growth opportunities, organised by the MCC Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The chamber’s vice-president, Sanjay Agarwal, in his opening speech, brought to light the hurdles investors face in the region.
He voiced concern that withdrawal of benefits to investors in the region was a disincentive.
“The Centre introduced the Northeast Industrial Policy in 1997 to promote economic growth, tourism and development in the region. It provided an incentive package, which included 15 per cent capital subsidy, 100 per cent insurance subsidy, along with exemptions on income tax and excise duty. The move was welcomed and nearly 700 industrial units with an investment of around Rs 1,000 crore mushroomed around Guwahati. After the lapse of the policy, the subsidies were reduced and excise exemption was allowed on the quantum paid on value addition only,” he said.
This move, along with reduction in transport subsidy and introduction of a similar incentive package for industries in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jammu and Kashmir, has disappointed investors in the Northeast, he said.
Ghatowar also pointed out that connectivity was one of the greatest hurdles industry faced in the region. He admitted that there was a long way to go, but added that under the Prime Minister’s India Vision 2020, connectivity of the Northeast was being addressed as a primary concern.
He said the East-West Corridor and the Indo-Myanmar Friendship Road, which the DoNER ministry is working on, can take the region ahead in connectivity by leaps and bounds.
However, he said, to improve the situation there has to be a shift in the way the region is perceived.
“The region is still considered remote and inaccessible. It is important that along with initiatives to develop the region we also look at changing this perception. The seven states of the region share borders with countries like China, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan with great potential for international trade. In fact, the Northeast has the potential to become an international trade hub,” he said.
He said there has always been a security-based approach to development in the region but if there is robust economic growth along with addressing of security concerns, militancy would ebb faster.
When the house was open for questions, it was pointed out that it took an investor three years to get the subsidy amount on transport from the government.
Ghatowar said he was aware of this problem and had spoken to the ministers concerned as well as NEDFi to make the process faster.
He said most states in the Northeast welcomed the recent economic reforms and he was looking forward to foreign investment in retail and other sectors in the region.