Economic development & investment
Indeed, the B20 conference of the G20 dialogue forum for the global business community held at Imphal recently was a significant step towards economic development of the landlocked State called Manipur. Though significant, it was only the first step and Manipur has still miles and miles to go before it can catch up with the developed nations of the world. Over 100 delegates from 23 countries participated in the three-day event where opportunities for multilateral business partnership in ICT, tourism, healthcare and handlooms were discussed at length. One positive outcome of the conference was the keen interest shown by a US company to invest in the State’s tourism sector. The geographical location of Manipur is such that it straddles both South Asia and South East Asia, and as stated by the Chief Minister at the conference, Manipur can serve as a land gateway between India and South East Asia. But perfect or suitable geographical location is not enough, it requires a host of modern infrastructure to emerge as a viable gateway between the two regions. Skill development, innovation and entrepreneurship have been generally accepted as the key foundations for economic development of any society or nation. Even though these three elements are of paramount importance, they are not enough to bring economic development and growth on their own. Skill development, innovation and entrepreneurship can never be effective enough to bring or sustain economic development without investment from multiple sources and promotion by the State. The Government has already adopted a new Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy of Manipur to promote investment in the State. To promote ‘Ease of Doing Business’, the Manipur Industrial Single Window Clearance Act, 2021 was enacted followed by the Manipur Integrated Logistics Policy, 2022.
No doubt, all these initiatives, policies or statutes, whatever one wishes to call, are aimed at bringing economic development and growth in the economically backward Manipur. But how successful they are would largely depend on how effectively they are implemented. Even a conclave was held at the State capital on Manipur Startup followed by another one some years back. The two conclaves, if anything, are unmistakable signs of the State Government’s vigorous push for economic development. However, if anything concrete has been achieved out of the two conclaves is anybody’s guess. No doubt, innovative ideas are crucial for economic development of any region. But ideas are not enough. It demands a slew of elements, the most fundamental being promotion of entrepreneurship by the State which entails a fair dose of political will. There must also be modern physical infrastructure, adequate investment and capacity building. Conducive atmosphere for investment and growth of entrepreneurship are other prerequisites. But many of these prerequisites are conspicuously either absent or inadequate in the State as of now. Strong political will, sound economic policy and substantive investment or more must go side by side or concurrently if there should be rapid economic development in the State. Tourism and hospitality is one of the 25 sectors covered by Make in India initiative. It is painful to note that neither the Make in India initiative has brought any substantial change to the State’s tourism sector so far nor the State Government has done anything worthwhile to capitalise on the grand initiative to boost its tourism sector, except for the willingness shown by a US company to invest in the State’s tourism sector. The first step was taken when the State hosted the B20 conference. Now it is up to the Government and all stakeholders to take the next step and propel the State on a new trajectory of economic development and prosperity.