North-Eastern region is gateway to East, says Kishan Reddy
Bhubaneswar: “The average growth rate in the region, during the period 2015-2020, has been above the average growth rate of the country”/“Railway connectivity with Bangladesh will be a game changer”/“Government of India is streamlining land acquisitions, revamp dispute resolution mechanisms, coordinating with other ministry and State governments for completion of the infrastructure projects — Amitabh Kant, Chief Executive Officer, NITI AAYOG.
“Monetising existing operating public infrastructure assets is a very important financing option for new infrastructure construction” — G Kishan Reddy, Minister of Development of the North Eastern Region and Tourism.
“The North-Eastern region is our gateway to the East as envisioned in the Government’s Act East Policy. There are many opportunities in Ports, Railways, Aviation & Future Mobility,” said G Kishan Reddy, Minister of Development of the North-Eastern Region and Tourism at the Inaugural Session of the Maiden Edition of the CII East India Summit being held digitally from Tuesday.
“In the budget of 2021-22, the Budget Allocation to the North-Eastern States is INR 68,020 crore, an increase from INR 60,112 crore in 2020-21. In FY 2014-2015, the budgetary allocation was INR 36,107.56 We have almost doubled the budget in the last 7 years, thus showing our commitment to the region’s development.”
According to the Minister, monetising existing operating public infrastructure assets is a very important financing option for new infrastructure construction. His comments come on the back of the recent announcements by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman that the Government of India has earmarked projects for INR 6 lakh crore through core assets of the Central Government, over a four-year period, from FY 2022 to FY 2025. A large number of these projects are in the North Eastern Region including sectors like aviation, railways. The Minister invited the international multilateral agencies like World Bank, ADB and CII Country Partners to invest in the North Eastern Region.
Reddy shared that in the last 7 years, road infrastructure in North-Eastern Region has improved reducing travel time and fuel cost. He further shared that the region has many opportunities in Roads, Highways, Aviation, Food Processing and Future Mobility Sectors. Several infrastructure projects are going on in North East Region. One such project is the Agartala (India) – Akhaura (Bangladesh) rail link which is being constructed by investing Rs 972 crore.
Ministry of DoNER is funding the construction of the Indian side and Ministry of External Affairs is funding the Bangladesh side. As part of the rail connectivity with capital cities, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Tripura are already connected. Work is going on in other five States on the following lines, which are, Dimapur–Chupjah, Bairabi–Sairang, Jiribum–Imphal, Sevoke–Rangpo and Byrnihat–Shillong. Besides, work is going on for two greenfield Airports: 1) Hollinongi Airport near Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh and 2) Pakyong Airport in Sikkim. He further said that the Government is also giving push to the Agri Sector in North East which has a huge potential.
Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog, in his keynote address, expressed that the aggregate growth rate in the Eastern and North Eastern Region has been higher than the rest of India during the pandemic with Mizoram at 13 per cent, and Tripura at 9 per cent. The Government reforms and investment have yielded a positive result. Insufficient growth for a region, comprising one-fifth of India’s geography but far less than one-fifth of GDP, can be attributed to lack of commensurate infrastructure growth, particularly in the area of connectivity leading to high operational costs for business, commerce and industry.
Proximity to the neighbouring States can be leveraged by developing consumer markets provided infrastructure is improved. Some of the policies that the Government of India has published to relentlessly support the growth of the region are the Act East Policy, the North East Infrastructure Development scheme, and the recent National Infrastructure Pipeline, Kant said.
Further, he said that, to unlock the potential of the region, it is important to address the concerns of inadequate infrastructure, lack of connectivity and lack of institutional support to improve the competitiveness. Kant spoke of a few ongoing projects in East and North-East – East West Corridor is an important national project under the golden quadrilateral – which will increase the trade volumes by 90 per cent in the States that are part of this corridor.
The trilateral highway is an international project that will connect Manipur to Thailand via Myanmar and help in establishing trilateral connectivity between India, Myanmar and Thailand. The Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project is yet another important ongoing international project jointly identified by India and Myanmar for creating a multimodal transportation project that will provide an alternative route for transportation of goods to North-East India through Myanmar.
He assures that the Government of India is taking various steps in completion of these projects such as streamlining land acquisitions, revamp dispute resolution mechanisms, close coordination with other ministry and State governments. He called on the State governments who have a critical role to play on timely completion of the Central Government’s ongoing projects – which are reviewed by the Prime Minister on regular basis.
Sharing his views on the Railway connectivity, Kant said that the railway connectivity with Bangladesh will be a game changer. Improving connectivity through Road and Rail is critical. Strengthening connectivity thereby focusing on boosting connectivity in the North-East, hilly States and islands is also being considered under ‘Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik’ (UDAN Scheme). The scheme intends to develop 18 airports and operationalise 115 routes by the year 2024. He called on the States to focus on ease of doing business in order to boost private investments in the region. The States must also fast track the ongoing rail, road, water transport and aviation projects. The region has the potential to be the powerhouse of trade and investment to drive the Indian Economy.
The 1st ever East India Summit 2021 is taking place from 28 September till 7 October. This is bringing together a wide audience and participants from across the world. CII would be focusing on integrating the growth potential of the 5 States comprising Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal and channelise the strengths of the region towards “Building Eastern India” through integrating the 5 “I”s – Image, Innovation, Infrastructure, Investment and Inclusiveness.
Sanjeev Sanyal, Principal Economic Advisor, Government of India, said that the Centre has taken a unique approach in tackling the COVID pandemic in India – which was more of a feedback loop step by step approach. The Government has taken a series of modulated, medium-sized packages based on whatever be the evolving situation. The Government has emphasised heavily on supply side, hence it went for deregulations.
With simplified labour laws, the Government is trying to bring in reforms in the Agriculture sector. He further laid the emphasis on the need to keep a watch on how the COVID epidemic behaves in India and in the World. The Government is hopeful that if no further wave comes, development will accelerate. With the Banks and Financial Institutions being much cleaner now, and the Capital Markets doing well, a rapid growth is possible – in the long run. He mentioned that asset creation is absolutely important as there is deficit and debt.
Satoshi Suzuki, Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary, Embassy of Japan in India, during his address, shared his views of the ongoing projects of Japan in North-East. Linking the region to other economic corridors in India and Southeast Asia would catalyse economic and social development and increase prosperity. Japan’s Indo-Pacific vision and India’s Act East Policy converge. He emphasised on the importance of enhancing connectivity in the North-East and on its eastern borders as North-East is strategically located. Japan is at present implementing projects to upgrade the national highways in the region and make them disaster resilient. Japan is also implementing technical assistance projects to share their experience in construction of highways in mountainous areas.
Vijay Dewan requested Satoshi Suzuki to bring more investment in Eastern States viz – Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal.
Emmanuel Lenain, Ambassador of France to India, Embassy of France in India, spoke about France’s business relation with India. He further said that in India the French companies employ more than 350,000 Indians. There are Indian companies investing in France and more so particularly from West Bengal. Further, he shared that there are business opportunities in the innovation, agriculture, and food sector among other areas. He extended complete support of France in India to support the business.
Alex Ellis, British High Commissioner to India, British High Commission in India, spoke about the challenges of building sustainable infrastructure. He raised concerns on the climate change and that the South Asia will be one of the most affected – with Kolkata being the most affected city due to climate change. The UK is already working on this path with ambitious climate change commitments to reduce the emissions which are already down by 40 per cent of what they were in 1990 and they are going to further reduce them by 73 per cent by 2035. He highlighted that India is also working a lot in the renewable energy sector and suggested the dire need of addressing the infrastructure needs in respective countries of UK and India.
Barry O’Farrell, High Commissioner of Australia to India, High Commission of Australia in India, laid the importance of infrastructure in people’s lives and the importance of Government’s continued focus on attracting the finance and the companies to deliver the infrastructure pipelines that modern Government, at both State and Central level, seek to put together.
Aileen Crowe Nandi, Minister Counselor, Commercial Affairs at the US Commercial Service, Embassy of the USA in India, spoke about the Indian Prime Minister’s successful visit to the US which represents the deepening of the deep ties that the two countries enjoy. In terms of trade, the bilateral trade of the US in 2019 exceeded 145 billion dollars in goods and services – highlighting that there is a potential to do a lot more. She further spoke about the investments of the US companies in East India, successfully.
Toufique Hasan, Deputy High Commissioner, Deputy High Commission of Bangladesh in Kolkata, during his address, highlighted that trade and commerce between the two countries are increasing. Bangladesh has offered three special economic zones for Indian investors – wherein several Indian companies have set up their projects in Bangladesh. He further shared the scope of joint venture partnerships in the areas of pharmaceuticals, agro processing, automobiles, ceramics, ICT, tourism, textile, hospital and medical equipment.
Sanjiv Paul, Deputy Chairman, CII Eastern Region and Vice President, Tata Steel Ltd, during his address, shared that there are projects that require investment and participation of public and private sector combined. Recognising this aspect, both State and Union Governments have to develop a workable roadmap for the region, he added.