Kavya Bardhya Hazarika
Connectivity and communication are the essential ingredients of investment opportunities in 21st century. Isolation and a closed market system are now out of the book ideas; those if pursued will lead to a failed state with low economic growth as observed in case of North Korea. Therefore, in order to remain connected and open to development, investment is the key.
Assam is the new global hotspot for investment opportunities with rich tural resources and its proximity to ASEAN countries, which accounts for $2.8 trillion (2015 estimate) GDP, and is home to over 600 million people. To boost this idea and to send a strong message to investors, India has revived its Look East Policy to Act-East Policy. It is India’s effort to cultivate extensive economic and strategic relations with the tions of Southeast Asia. The strategic location of Assam, and the fact that all major cities of ASEAN like Yangon (Myanmar), Bangkok (Thailand), Kunming (Chi), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and Singapore are located geographically closer to Assam as compared to other States, give Assam an advantage. Keeping in light of this advantage, Assam can be the new engine to drive India’s economic growth.
When it comes to connectivity, roads are not just a mere mix of concrete and gravel. They are the lifelines to the vital support system of a region transporting not just goods and services but also ideas and innovation. The Asian Highway project under the United tions Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP) is a massive project to improve the highway systems in Asia. A significant part of this project covers key areas of Assam. The ongoing construction and development of Trans Asian Highways AH-1/AH-2 passes Noertheast India. AH-2 starts from Jakarta and ends in Tehran. Similarly, AH-1 initiates from Tokyo to Istanbul covering key ASEAN countries of Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietm and Singapore.
Apart from the global connectivity using the Trans Asian Highways, the East West Corridor, which falls under the North-South-East-West Corridor project, is the largest ongoing highway project in India, maged by the tiol Highways Authority of India. It covers important parts of Assam, notably Guwahati, Dabaka, Lumding, Halflong and Silchar. Assam has a robust railway network too.
Apart from roads and railways, Assam has six operatiol airports in Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Lilabari, Silchar and Tezpur. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) plans to develop Guwahati as an inter-regiol hub.
The tural highways and the mighty Brahmaputra and the Barak are declared as tiol waterways. Rapid developmental works in the form of ports, cargo-handling zones, vessels etc are in progress to utilize the vigable water route for inland waterways logistics and transport.
As for the availability of tural resources, let it be said here each region on earth has its own set of unique and endemic resources. ture does not identify political boundaries. Hence, cooperation and resource sharing are needed for us as a species to develop collectively and sustaibly. Assam is the largest economy in the Northeast and is rapidly marching towards employment generation and inclusive growth by industrial investment. It is the single largest tea-producing region globally and second commercial tea-production region after Southern Chi, contributing to over 50% of the country’s total tea production.
The State is the third largest onshore producer of crude oil and largest onshore producer of tural gas in the country. Major oil refineries are located in Digboi, Guwahati, Bongaigaon and Numaligarh. It has over 1.3 billion tonnes of crude oil and 156 billion cubic metric tonnes of tural gas reserves, which may be used for production of fertilizers, electricity, petrochemicals and also as fuel.
The State also has the largest wax plant in the country under Numaligarh Refinery Limited, which will cut down sizeable portion of paraffin wax import and demand for Microcrystalline wax. Wax is already being exported to 19 countries worldwide and has now made its way into the European market.
Assam is renowned for its monopoly in mugaa silk production along with eri and paat. Presently this sector is generating significant employment. Seneh Jori, an Assam Silk Outreach Mission, aims to produce 1 million kg of muga silk and 10 million kg of eri silk by 2025.
The State is also the third largest jute-producing one in the country. Jute production here stood at 148.14 million tonnes in 2015-16. This makes Assam a suitable location for setting up jute-processing industries.
The State also falls under the confluence of two biodiversity hotspots, which gives rise to a wide variety of horticultural crops. Pineapple, ba, Assam lemon, Assam orange, ginger, turmeric, bhoot jolokia, jackfruit, orchid etc are among the unique varieties of horticultural crops in Assam. Tezpur’s litchi and Karbi Anglong’s ginger have received Geographical Indication tags. Northeast India is the tural home to citrus fruits.
Another booming area is apiculture, which is making rapid strides in the region owing to the favourable climate of the State. The State government has already initiated a Honeybee Mission which seeks to increase honey output to 6,000 MT annually. Thus, food processing and value addition industries find immense potential in the State.
In addition to all the above resources, bamboo-based industries can find their place in Assam. The State has one of the highest concentrations of bamboo in the country. It also houses rare medicil herbs that can act as raw material for pharmaceutical industries.
To conclude, let us talk about Assam’s Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) during 2014-15. It was at USD 28.28 billion and grew at 13% compound annual growth rate from 2004-05, which is driven by trade, hotels, real estate, fince, insurance, transport and other services proving to be a bright spot for investment.
The Government of Assam has also ected an Act on Ease of Doing Business in Assam, 2016, which aims to provide a speedy processing of application and clearances required to set up industrial or service sector undertakings for promotion of economic development of the State and for an investor-friendly environment in the State.
The State, bestowed with huge tural resources and sound connectivity, can together make it the new hotspot for investment opportunities. Resources and connectivity, together with an estimated 20 million people in the working age, can herald a new era for youth-led development.
(The writer is pursuing BTech in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Tezpur University)