Development will not be at the cost of ecology, claims Chandra Mohan Patowary
In an exclusive interview to G Plus, Assam State Industries & Commerce Minister, Chandra Mohan Patowary, spells out details about the Global Investors’ Summit, the strategy of industrial development, the advantages of the state and the safeguards planned to be incorporated
What is the competitive edge of Assam for an investor to invest their money in the state? Similar summits are organised by all states across the country. Why should they invest in Assam?
The state of Assam has the unique advantage of being strategically located closer to the growing ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) economies, making it an ideal destination for doing business. With a strong connectivity network, Assam can become India’s expressway to the South-East Asian nations. The maiden Global Investors’ Summit, 2018 will attempt to portray these advantages to potential business partners and what makes Assam the ideal staging ground for businesses aiming to cater to the ASEAN and BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal) markets and will also showcase the various infrastructural initiatives taken up for the purpose.
The Government of Assam conducted 14 road shows across 6 domestic and 8 international locations to showcase the business potential and investment opportunities in the state. This collective effort has helped in garnering a huge response for the summit.
What are the key policy advantages for investors across industries in Assam?
The Government of Assam has instituted some very attractive, sectoral policies apart from the Industrial Policy like the Assam Start Up Policy 2017, Information Technology and Electronic Policy 2017, Tourism Policy 2017, etc, which will help in transforming Assam into a competitive destination for investments.
In line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to enhance the ease of doing business, the Government of Assam has declared two dedicated industrial zones for development of industries in the state. The state government has earmarked areas on both sides of NH 37 from Jalukbari to Kukurmara and another extending beside NH 31 from Jalukbari to Tihu, excluding tribal belts and blocks, wetlands, notified forest land, VGR and PGR lands as industrial zone for the purpose of assessment of land revenue at enhanced rate as may be applicable.
What are the initiatives and advantages for local entrepreneurs and industrialists?
The Industries & Commerce Department has launched a new scheme called Chief Minister’s Start-up fund ‘Sarothi’. In this regard, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed with Assam Gramin Vikas Bank (AGVB). The basic objective of the scheme is to provide financial assistance in the form of loan with interest subvention. The loan so availed by the beneficiaries will be supported by the state government through interest subvention @ 5% per annum.
To encourage the employment generated by the small tea growers, the government has formulated a cess utilization policy for development and welfare of small tea growers of Assam by providing financial support, subsidies, setting up of tea factories, etc. These are a few of the various steps undertaken by the government to facilitate investments by local entrepreneurs and industrialists.
What are the measures being taken to improvise Single Window Clearance and help “Ease of Doing Business”?
To fast track the industrial growth of the state, our government passed the Ease of Doing Business Bill, 2016, in the first assembly session. Now, registration for setting up of industries and clearances can be obtained online through single window clearance system. At present, the single window mechanism offers 270 G2B (Government to business) services online under the Ease of Doing Business. It is noteworthy that Assam is the first state to implement the GST (Goods and Services) Act.
To make the business environment investor-friendly, land banks have been created to boost industrial growth in the state. Land was allotted to Patanjali at Balipara, Sonitpur district within a week’s time. A new land pooling scheme is also being considered.
Infrastructure creation is another major objective of the current government to attract investment. A World Trade Centre will be constructed in Guwahati for projecting it as a modern city. Besides, a food park, tea park, bamboo park, pharma park, textile park will be soon made operational.
Assam has been traditionally a state where businessmen have been looked down upon. Is Advantage Assam part of the poribortan that this government is trying to bring in?
Assam can be a natural choice for investors for it’s from here that South East Asia begins. Located in between the Indian mainland and the huge markets of South East Asia, Assam, with Guwahati as the commercial hub, is well poised to be a launching pad of investors looking to capture the South East Asian markets.
Other industrially-advanced states of India have already reached a point of saturation. New investments in these states may not be as high as those in unexplored markets with promising prospects. Assam in particular and the North East markets in general are full of potentialities and probabilities. And Assam’s proximity to the SAARC nations, and its own large domestic market, has created a new huge market of over 400 million households.
Since May 2016, after we came to power, more than 25 industries have invested more than Rs. 5,000 crores enabling employment opportunities for 30,000 youths. This is a remarkable achievement in the history of Assam. It reflects the good governance, conducive business environment and sense of security among industrialists – a change brought about by the present government.
The Global Investors’ Summit will open the doors to a beginning - a new industrial era in the state.
Why was the state government not able to persuade the Centre to announce the new investment policy before the summit? When will the Centre announce it?
We are formulating a new state industrial policy keeping in mind what the state has to offer to potential investors. In this connection we have held a series of talks with successive Union Ministers for Commerce & Industry of the Government of India. I have also personally met them to push for announcing the investment policy.
I have been assured that very soon we will have an industrial policy exclusively for the state of Assam to attract more investments into the state.
With emphasis on industries like plastic, gas and pharmaceutical, don’t you think the environment of the state will be affected?
During the Global Investors’ Summit, business seminars on 12 focus sectors will be held over the two days. These sectors are agriculture and food processing including organic cultivation and bamboo, handloom, textile and handicrafts, logistics, river transport and port township, IT and ITeS, pharmaceutical and medical equipment, plastics and petrochemicals, power, tourism, hospitality and wellness, civil aviation, petroleum and natural gas and startups innovation. Of these, the majority are non-polluting sectors.
In other sectors, the emphasis will be on adopting green initiatives and low emission technologies which are being adopted all over the world as part of sustainable development initiatives. Development will not be at the cost of the ecology. We will focus on adopting a balanced approach.
There are states like Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim who are doing good only by developing their tourism sector. Assam has so much of tourism opportunities, so why not focus only on tourism and other less pollution sectors like handicrafts, silk etc?
Assam already has a tourism policy in place. Advantage Assam will be the largest ever investment promotion and facilitation initiative undertaken by the Government of Assam. There are several potential business sectors in this land of natural resources. The climate and general environment of Assam is well suited for sericulture. The state offers good potential for development of some major industries on silk, medicinal plants and herbs, plywood, pharmaceutical industries, etc. Besides, there are sectors like horticulture, food processing, IT& ITES which we will lay thrust on.
As I have mentioned earlier, more focus is being laid on less polluting sectors in the business sessions during the Global Investors’ Summit.
What is your expectation from the summit? What amount of money will be pumped into the state by investors according to you?
The focus of the Global Investors’ Summit is to create a congenial atmosphere for business and portray Assam as India’s expressway to the ASEAN countries. We want to attract considerable investment into the state that will amp up the industrial scenario and boost other tertiary sectors as well.
Registration for the Summit has neared 5,000 which shows that several investors have expressed their interest to come and explore the possibilities in the state.
The Government of Assam has invited business delegations and ministers from as many as 20 countries in the ASEAN and the region overall. Bangladesh (led by Minister of Industries), Bhutan (led by Prime Minister of Bhutan), Cambodia (led by Minister of Tourism), Lao PDR (led by Minister of Culture and Tourism), Myanmar (led by Minister of Commerce) are expected to join the meet. In addition, Czech Republic, Germany, Japan and Nepal are to be represented by the respective ambassadors to India. Moreover, Vietnam is going to be represented by a business delegation as well as eminent specialist speaker for the start up business session. Business delegations from other countries like United States of America, UAE are also expected to take part in the Global Investors Summit. At this moment, expectations are high and we are hopeful about a positive outcome of the Summit.
What are the challenges you faced to organise such an event in Guwahati? Are you satisfied with the performance of other organising partners?
Advantage Assam is a maiden attempt made to change the industrial scenario and promote Assam as the next investment destination of the country. With the cooperation from various government departments and with public support, we were able to overcome all such challenges. The Government of India has also extended considerable support to make this event possible.