From Look East to Act East
BY OUR STAFF REPORTER
GUWAHATI, February 28: The Centre's hitherto ambiguous 'Look East' policy has given way to an 'Act East' policy, with Union Fince minister Arun Jaitley taking the first concrete steps by announcing measures to catalyse Indian investments in South East Asia and promising to bring the Northeast into the country’s mainstream.
The 'Look East' policy of the UPA government had suffered due to lack of concrete action plan.
In his budget speech today, Jaitley announced setting-up of manufacturing hubs in CMLV countries, mely, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietm.
The Fince Minister stated that the ‘Act East’ policy of the Government seeks to cultivate extensive economic and strategic ties in South-East Asia. The policy intends to eventually link Northeast India with South East Asian countries.
In order to catalyse investments from the Indian private sector in this region, a project development company will set-up the manufacturing hubs in CMLV countries through separate Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs).
Experts say that this will give the land-locked Northeast region a market, allow trade and commerce to benefit, and open the door to entrepreneurs from the Northeast to do business in Southeast Asian countries.
Jaitley also announced setting up of an All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Assam. This has been a long-standing popular demand from the State. Due to lack of quality health care in the region, lakhs of people from the Northeast visit other cities in the country for medical treatment every year.
The Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) ministry saw a 29.43 percent increase in its budgetary allocation for 2015-16, with extra money pumped in for implementation of various schemes of the North Eastern Council (NEC), the nodal agency for the economic and social development of the region. The DoNER allocation was increased from Rs.1,825.45 crore to Rs.2,362.74 crore.
The Centre also announced a centre for film production, animation and gaming to be set up at Aruchal Pradesh, a project that is expected to open the region to Bollywood, besides giving a fillip to research and development in film making.
The budget also announced an Institute of Science and Education Research in galand. Federation of Industry and Commerce of the North East Region (FINER) Chairman R S Joshi said, “The institute in galand will assist youths in the Northeastern states, and quality research will get a boost.”
Though the industry bodies welcomed the budget as an “inclusive” and “growth-oriented one”, the Fince minister left the industries and commerce sector in the Northeast somewhat disappointed, by not announcing specific measures to strengthen infrastructure in the region and translating the ‘Make in India’ policy into ‘Make in North East’.
“We also expected that NEIIPP 2007 with its origil spirit will soon be restored by the Government of India,” the FINER said.
Assam Chamber of Commerce secretary general Sisir Kalita said as an apex body representing all sections of people in the State, his organization “would like to see something done to meet the long-standing demand to put an end to the prolonged flood and erosion problem. The income tax exemption for CSR activities for clean Ganga could have been extended to digging the Brahmaputra bed, and thereby put an end to the agony of millions of people of Assam”.
Confederation of Indian Industry Northeast council co-chairman Abhijit Barooah said that the announcements made will also benefit the North East, including the federal system of divisible share of revenue with the states. “This will empower the Northeast states on further consolidation of their socio economic strengths. The budget emphasis on agriculture and entrepreneurship development is pertinent to this region as well. For the Northeast, launch of a tiol skills mission to enhance employability of rural youth, has a lot of significance and hope,” he pointed out.
Raising the visa-on-arrival facility to 150 countries from current 43 will definitely increase manifold foreign tourist arrival, and the Northeast tourism sector should gear up to take advantage of it, he said.
Barooah, however, added that the expectations of specific announcements in this budget were not met, including the opportunity for connecting the Northeast with the tiol Gas Grid for making available tural gas for the automobile, domestic and industrial sectors in the region.