Shillong, Dec 5 : The Northeastern region urgently needs Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to boost trade and economy, experts pointed out here today.
Speaking at an International “Policy meeting on Economic and Transport development in the border areas of Eastern and South Asia,” MP Bezbaruah, member of the North Eastern Council (NEC), said that the Northeastern region “badly” needs SEZs to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of trade and economy.
The policy meet has been jointly organised by the United Nation’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Asian Development Bank and the Government of Meghalaya with participants from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Philippines and other countries.
Bezbaruah said that during the past few years the trade between India and South East Asian countries has doubled, but during the same period the quantum of trade from the North East has gone down.
He said that most of the trade happening from the region to other countries is in primary goods with no value addition. “The region needs to increase productivity with value addition and this could be done by creating urgently SEZs in the region,” Bezbaruah said. He further pointed to the 16-km “informal” trading zone in Moreh, Manipur and said that the trading hub is an area of concern as far as the region is concerned. The NEC member said that most of the trade is being done on the Mynmarese side and the goods are from “third countries”, especially China.
“Whatever that is happening in Moreh is not encouraging from the North East’s perspective. The requirements of the border areas of Myanmar are being provided by China and there is very less that is going from the Indian side,” he said.
Observing that there are many items that are in great demand in Myanmar that India and the North East could supply, he added that “there is a great demand for generic drugs from India, but bringing such drugs from Delhi and other big cities to Moreh does not make economic sense. So if these could be produced on the border in SEZs than the region could benefit,” he said.
Bezbaruah said that at the current pace of development the North East would never catch up with the rest of India in terms of economic development. Even if the region’s growth doubles vis-a-vis with the rest of the country, the region would need 25 years to be at par with the rest of India,” he said.
The NEC member further added that the region’s best option would be to have better linkages with the South East Asian countries and further east to put its economy on the fast track. Experts said the “largely unexplored” South Asian region is a 200 billion dollar potential market.