Assam eyes big-ticket investments with mega summit in February

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. (File photo: PTI)
In line with the government’s Act East policy, Assam is gearing up to woo big-ticket investments by throwing its weight behind a mega investment summit — the first of its kind in the Northeast — next February.

The two-day summit, called “Advantage Assam: Global Investors’ Summit 2018”, will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 3. It will showcase sectors such as river transportation, petrochemicals and tea cultivation in which the state is strong, but needs more capital infusion.

The state has received more than $1 billion worth of investments over the past one year, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal told Indian and foreign investors in New Delhi on Tuesday. He attributed these investments, from companies such as Unilever, Dabur and Sun Pharma, to Assam cementing its position as a hub of trade servicing the mega markets of the Southeast Asian nations.

Aiming to use its proximity to nations that are part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), Assam is also looking to boost trade and investment in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Vietnam and beyond. "After Bangladesh and Bhutan set up consulates in Guwahati, we have now requested the external affairs ministry to facilitate the setting up of an Asean consulate as well,” Sonowal said, adding two 65-storey trade centres were set to come up in Capital Guwahati.

Thus, the state government has recently inaugurated sectoral industrial policies for information technology, biotech, handloom and sugar, as well as a procurement policy. It is also focussing strongly on skill development and education.

"With investments being non-existent earlier, the basic need for skill development had not arisen. But now we have created a skill development centre in each of the 230 administrative blocks in Assam," the state’s industries and commerce minister, Chandra Mohan Patowary said. 

For the first time, an industrial training institute had been set up in the state exclusively for the physically challenged, he said.

State government officials said they expect the central government to inaugurate the updated North East Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy (NEIIPP), which lapsed on March 21. This, they expect, will give a further fillip to investments in the region. The updated policy is expected to be cleared by the Cabinet within the next two weeks, K K Dwivedi, commissioner of Assam’s industries and commerce department, said.

Among the sectors ripe for investment, the state is particularly pushing for river transportation and the development of port townships given that Assam has 15 recognised national waterways or about 10 per cent of the country's navigable river system. 

While the Brahmaputra may in the near future connect the state with river transit hubs downstream in Bangladesh, the state government is also actively planning to develop Assam as the regional aviation hub, said Ravi Capoor, additional chief secretary at Assam’s industries and commerce department. The state is looking at ways to establish direct air connectivity with neighbouring countries where the flying time is 1.5-2 hours, he said. This includes national capitals such as Dhaka, Yangon and Thimphu, apart from more than 20 smaller cities. Talks are afoot with the civil aviation ministry for special benefits under the flagship UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) scheme.

In the petrochemicals segment, Assam provides the country with the highest share of onshore crude oil. The government is keen on exploiting the vast reserves of oil and natural gas that is still untapped, a senior bureaucrat said.

Also, the state is looking to upgrade the tea and sericulture sectors. Currently, every seventh cup of tea sipped across the world has its origins in Assam and the government plans to boost that figure apart from marketing Muga silk better, 95 per cent of which is produced in Assam.

  • Assam bets big on a mega investment summit to be held next year to woo big-ticket investments
  • The state will showcase sectors in which it enjoys strength but requires more capital infusion, such as river transportation, petrochemicals and tea cultivation
  • The state has received more than $1 billion worth of investments over the last one year
  • Assam is looking to boost trade and investment with Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Vietnam, among others
  • Guwahati is also set to receive two 65-floor trade centres
  • The state govt has inaugurated sectoral industrial policies for IT, biotech, handloom and sugar sectors and unveiled a procurement policy

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