NEDS gets 'harbinger of good times' tag, 39 MoUs signed

As many as 39 memorandums of understanding (MoUs) were signed between the government of Manipur and different firms/investors on healthcare, infrastructure, skill development and agricultural areas during the second and last day of the first North East Development Summit (NEDS) which concluded Wednesday at City Convention Centre, Palace Compound here on a positive note.

Chief Minister N Biren attended the valedictory function as chief guest while Health Minister L Jayantakumar, DoNER Secretary Naveen Verma, Secretary (Tourism) Rashmi Verma, Keirao AC MLA L Rameshwor, Manipur Infrastructure and Development Agency (MIDA) vice-chairman M Asnikumar and Additional Chief Secretary (Home) and MIDA chief executive officer Dr J Suresh Babu were the guests of honour.

Speaking on the occasion, Biren conveyed that the summit was an effort to showcase and explore the potential of North East India for establishing itself as a ‘hub land’ of India’s Act East Policy.

Stating that the summit was a historic event, the chief minister noted that it marked the beginning of the government and private companies’ commitment towards collective efforts for building partnerships to address the aspirations of the people by unlocking the full potential of the state and the north east region.

N Biren also expressed his delight that five sessions focusing on the areas of trade and investment, connectivity and infrastructure development, tourism development in the region, skill development, capacity building and entrepreneurship were covered during the summit.

The positive outcomes from this summit would transform the business and development environment of the North-East region in general and Manipur in particular, he added.

On the concluding day, the state forest department signed four MoUs - two with HSMM Group for Agarwood plantation and production of essential oil, commercial production of orchids and essential oils and one each with the NRL for production of biofuels from bamboo and TRIFED for minimum support prices for minor forest produces.

The higher education department signed MoU with M/s UNESCO Centre (UK) for setting up a private university in Manipur while the finance department signed MoU with INDO SWISS Centre (Switzerland) for facilitating investment in trade and tourism.

Agriculture Department also signed MoU with MSTC for e-marketing of agricultural produces from Manipur. The tourism department on the other hand signed MoU with Lao PDR for Development of tourism.

The tourism department also signed MoU with M/s Star Track Business House Pvt Ltd Mumbai for Infrastructure Development project for Rs 50 crore while Manipur Police Housing Corporation (MPHC) signed MoU with M/s Fitzroy Salai Holdings, Kolkata for setting up Cable Car Project.

The concluding day of the Summit, which was inaugurated by President of India Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday, also figured delegates discussing key areas of development which could be taken up in the state as well as the north east region.

Commerce and Industries minister Thongam Biswajit chaired the morning session.

Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion Joint Secretary Dr Vandana Kumar complemented the state government for organising the summit and said the presence of delegates from various foreign countries including Lao, Malaysia, Japan, etc., is testimony to the fact that this is a region of huge potential.

She further expressed the need to create a conducive business environment for industries to flourish here.

The region, she said, has a huge potential, be in organic farming, horticulture based industries, food processing industry, tourism, mineral based industries, and that the government of India will accord full support. This summit is a harbinger of good times to come.

The session was also attended by Vice-Minister of Ministry of Information, Culture, Tourism (Lao DPR) Savankhone Razmountry; Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Japan, Yutaka Kikuta; ASEAN-India Business Council Co-Chairman Dato’ Ramesh Kodammal; SBI Life Managing Director and CEO Arijit Basu; and Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) Director and Chief Executive Dr Rajat Kathuria.

In his opening remark, Savankhone Razmountry appreciated the commitment and dedication of the government to bring development in the north-eastern region of India and connect the region with the South East Asian countries.

Yutaka Kikuta noted that the summit would be a catalyst for development of north east region of India. The region is a place where Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy and India’s Act East Policy converge, he said.

Japan has placed importance on cooperation in India’s northeast, he said, adding that historically, Japan has close ties with the region.

Yutaka Kikuta informed that the total number of Japanese companies in India has reached 1305. As of last year, of the 4,590 Japanese establishments in India, 64 are located in NE India, he added.

“If we consider Japan’s business opportunity in NE region of India, Japanese citizens are already familiar with certain things of the region, he said, citing that Assam is already famous for its tea exports and that city of Imphal is well known for the Battle of Imphal during the WW-II which is included in many textbooks in Japan.

Yutaka Kikuta also stressed on certain issues, which hinder investment from Japanese companies, and said limited physical infrastructure of this region is one such issues.

Another concern of Japanese companies as well as the government of Japan is the security situation, he said, adding that in some places, people are still struggling with the political and violent conflicts. Safety is the first priority and the basic requirement when Japanese companies consider business and investment, he conveyed.

The region can expect many Japanese companies once they have successfully faced the challenges for the region is abundant in talented human capital and natural resources. Japan is happy to discuss with relevant authorities to find solutions.

He continued that to expand trade and investments, it is also important to expand culture and people to people contact and exchanges.

“During his visit to India in September this year, Prime Minister Shinz? Abe signed a memorandum with the government of India on cooperation to establish the Japan-India Act East Forum, to promote cooperation on the development of NE region, he recalled, while conveying wishes of Japan to enhance its cooperation in the region through this forum.

Dato’ Ramesh Kodammal said ASEAN-India Business Council focuses on relationship between ASEAN and India and was formed by governments of ASEAN and India to see that there is a smooth implementation of trade policies.

Highlighting India’s close to 1.2 billion population and 650 million of ASEAN countries, he said, “This is a huge market which means that the region has a huge opportunity to take advantage of once we link the region to the market.”

“This is an opportunity knocking on our door and we should take advantage of it,” he added.

ASEAN and India can work on different areas, and the focuses should be on areas of health care, tourism, education, connectivity and moving forward, he said.

He further recommended organising such summit every year on a rotational basis, in every state of the region.

Kodammal also noted that without connectivity, businesses will not grow.

Arijit Basu said connectivity is very important for business, but any growth in industry would also require the ability to market and ability to ensure that raw material move from one place to another for which road and rail connectivity will be crucial linkages.

Dr Rajat Kathuria said that the northeast has not integrated much either within itself or with the rest of the country or the rest of the world. He further observed that the northeast’s share in India’s trade with the ASEAN is about only 1 percent, which is comparatively low.

In his closing remarks, minister Biswajit said the government will note down all the points highlighted by the speakers and will consider the recommendations with all seriousness they deserved.

The minister also expressed that the state government will be happy to partner with investors and industrialists for the growth and development of Manipur and assured full support to all concerned from the side of the state government.

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