Industries and Commerce adviser Hekani Jakhalu championed the pivotal role of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the North-eastern region’s (NER) economic growth.
In her address on the second day of the First North Eastern States Chamber of Commerce & Industry Business Conclave at Niathu Resort, Chümoukedima on Tuesday, Hekani noted that despite constituting a mere 1.5% of India’s MSME landscape, the sector contributed nearly 62% to the region’s economy, encompassing employment, output, and exports, highlighting MSMEs role in the region’s development.
Acknowledging the industrial “backwardness” of NER, she attributed it to poor connectivity, limited access to raw materials, inadequate markets, and a lack of marketing support and infrastructure. In the light of this, she stressed the potential of small scale industries to drive the region’s growth, since establishing large industries and factories was not always feasible due to geographical constraints.
Further, Hekani underscored NE’s significance as India’s gateway to South East Asia, emphasizing that an expansion of the MSME sector could serve as a catalyst for economic prosperity.
Referring to the “Seven Sisters” as a mosaic of cultures and shared aspirations, Hekani referred to the conclave as a convergence of organisations working toward collective progress and a common goal, describing it as “Of the North East, by the North East, and for the North East”.
Pointing out the unexplored economic prospects, she questioned why the region was yet to harness its full potential, resources, and opportunities for the desired economic growth and development. She appealed to the conclave to delve into the existing challenges and collectively strategise on how to effectively address them.
She also highlighted the drop in investments due to the discontinuation of the North East Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy (NEIIPP) in 2017 and North East Industrial Development (NEID) Scheme expiring in 2022. She lamented that the NEID scheme is yet to be renewed, adding that the region was eager to incentivise domestic and global investors.
Without a special policy, Hekani noted that the share of investment in NER under the NEIIPP plummeted from 8.3% in 2017 to a meagre 0.13% in 2021.
She also expressed disappointment that the 2023 Union Budget did not announce a new Industrial Policy for the region, as anticipated by industry leaders. She called for a new industrial policy with enhanced incentives, particularly for the MSME sector, for a minimum of ten years.
She also emphasised on the criticality of extending the scheme, as outlined in the 175th report of the Standing Committee on Commerce, which also strongly recommended engaging with industry stakeholders and state governments for their valuable input.
She pointed out that the committee had underlined that any further delay in notifying new industrial development scheme for NER could impede the already slowed momentum in its industrialisation.
The adviser also highlighted some key points evaluated by the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Commerce, which submitted its report on Development of Creating Industries in the North East Region on August 10, 2023.
The committee’s key observations and recommendations included connectivity, land for industrial use, special economic zones (SEZs), trade with ASEAN, and foreign direct investment (FDI)
She briefed the gathering too on the recommendations with regard to food processing industry, MSMEs, bamboo industry, tourism, etc.
She concluded her speech by urging all stakeholders– the government, businesses, civil society, and academia– to collaborate closely and chart a path toward sustainable economic growth, while also building a Northeast that not only prospered but also ensured inclusive development, offering every citizen a chance to thrive.