Tuesday, October 09, 2007

N-E including Sikkim to mount growth path: Planning Commission

Gangtok,Oct. 8: The Northeast including Sikkim will witness a massive upsurge in economic development over the next five years, announced Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia today. However, he sounded a cautious note, saying the region’s absorption capacity was still low.
He disclosed that a whopping Rs 80,943 crore has been spent under the Tenth Plan and the figure would go up in the Eleventh Plan. Pledging that there would be no shortage of funds for the region, he, however, added that he expected the money to be properly utilised.
Ahluwalia was speaking on development issues concerning the Northeast at a conference here today on India’s Look East Policy: Challenges for Sub-Regional Co-operation.
The conference is being organised by the public diplomacy division of the ministry of external affairs in association with the Omeo Kumar Das Institute of Social Change and Development and the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations.
“Are we getting full value for the money allocated?” he asked at the meeting, which was attended by policy makers, diplomats of the foreign service, representatives of NGOs, academicians and social activists.
Ahluwalia promised that the region would not suffer for lack of funds as the Centre would spend more on the region in the Eleventh Plan.
“The capacity to absorb the money productively is still low in the region,” he pointed out. However, a special strategy will be adopted for infrastructure development in the region during the current Plan period, he added.
Unveiling figures to show how the Centre has given top priority to the Northeast, he said the per capita central assistance here is Rs 2,575, while for the rest of the country it is Rs 684. The central assistance as ratio of SDP (state gross domestic product — GDP) has increased from 9.1 per cent to 10.6 per cent for the Northeast. But for the non-special category states, it has declined from 2.4 per cent to 1.9 per cent.
He added that the total accruals to the non-lapsable central pool of resources was pegged at Rs 10,400 crore by the end of the Tenth Plan, of which only Rs 4,660 crore was utilised.
Referring to future initiatives, Ahluwalia disclosed that airports would be built in Kohima, Itanagar and Sikkim. He said he was in favour of having a regional airline based in Guwahati.
He also noted that the region is blessed with huge power resources but these have never been utilised. “There has been no effective power policy for the region,” he added