Assam to review investment policy

GUWAHATI: The state government is contemplating to conduct a study to find out whether the state has benefited from the ambitious North East Industrial and Investment Policy announced by the Centre in 2007 to boost industrialization in the backward state as well as the entire region.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi said, "The government would constitute a committee to study whether Assam has benefited from the incentives under NEIPP."

Gogoi's remark comes close on the heels of the Planning Commission increasing Assam's annual plan share to Rs 12,500 crore after it appreciated the efforts of the state government in infrastructure development and agriculture.

The policy is loaded with fiscal incentives and other concessions to attract investors from within the country and abroad to this geographically isolated region but official records show that since 2001, no industry has been set up in the state sector and of the 16 state public sector units under the industry and commerce department, 11 have been closed down, one is sick and two are incurring losses. Only one is making profit and one has just started functioning.

The Economic Survey of the state for 2012-13 states, "Assam is still making efforts desperately for gearing up industrial activities. The manufacturing sector's contribution to the state economy maintains a downward trend and is pegged at 4.05 per cent."

The policy, which is applicable to all industrial units except those producing tobacco and manufactured tobacco substitutes, pan masala and plastic carry bags of less than 20 microns, refineries and units engaged in peripheral activities like preservation during storage, cleaning operations, packing, re-packing, labeling or re-labeling, sorting and alteration of retail sale price, extends to Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim.

Gogoi and industry and commerce minister Pradyut Bordoloi have made numerous trips abroad in search of investments to the state since 2001. But all their efforts have drawn a blank so far. Sources said there is no direct foreign investment proposal for the state from the Centre.

"In many cases, investors have been found to retract because of lack of easily available land," the source said. The industry department is optimistic and claimed that six big Indian business houses are now showing interest in the state, which include Hindustan Lever Limited, Ind-Swift Laboratories, McLeod Russel (India) Limited, North East Pulp and Paper Private Ltd, Kohinoor Pulp and Paper Private Ltd and Globe Power and Steel Ltd.