India's northeast woos FDI at New York conclave

Thursday, 27 September 2007, 07:00 Hrs
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New York: The north eastern states of India highlighted their many strengths at a business conference here and enticed US entrepreneurs to invest in high potential sectors like tourism, food and agro industries, infrastructure, minerals, IT and communications for socio-economic development in the region.

The daylong North East India Investment Conference, which was held Wednesday, was the last big conclave that concluded the Incredible India@60 mega event here.

It was organised by the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

"It is the first time that the region has been presented internationally as an investment opportunity," Chief Minister of Assam Tarun Gogoi said.

Six states in the region sent high-level delegations, three led by chief ministers.

While making a pitch for investment in what has been almost virgin territory, the speakers at the conference underlined that the region was abundant in resources like oil, coal, minerals and water. They also highlighted that the region had unparalleled scenic beauty, was rich in biodiversity affording great scope for horticulture and floriculture, followed organic farming and had a huge English speaking, educated population, making it ideal as an IT and communications hub.

Gogoi especially invited investment in the education sector "to move towards a knowledge-based economy". IT already is the fastest moving sector in the state, he pointed out.

Meghalaya's deputy chief minister, Mukul Sangma, argued that since individual states were small, "presenting the region as a unit will make them more attractive for investors".

He added that for India to do business with countries to its southeast, the region is the gateway.

To drive home the point that the rest of the country is ignorant about the northeast, which does not attract enough tourism despite its natural beauty, Sangma said: "I have been to most hill stations in the country and I can vouch that Shillong is the most beautiful among them."

Manipur's Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh agreed that the general impression about insurgency and law and order problems in parts of the region have kept business and industry away.

"The root of the problem, however, is unemployment among the educated. Once investment kicks off development, creating jobs, the problem can be solved," he said.

Sikkim's Chief Minister Pawan Chamling was quick to mention the socio-political stability in the state. He also said that Sikkim was the only Indian state where onshore casinos were permitted.

H. Khekiho Zhimoni, industry minister of Nagaland, and Chowna Mein, rural development minister of Arunachal Pradesh, also spoke during the conference.

Dipankar Chatterji, chairman of the CII's North East Council, pointed out that investors in the northeast would enjoy major tax breaks and subsidies that were unavailable in other parts of the country.

Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, was the chief guest at the conference while Nandan Nilekani, co-chairman of Infosys, addressed the session on IT.

Coming up from Oct 1 to 4 is the North-East India Investment Opportunities Week in Bangkok.
Source: IANS
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