India's states will soon be allowed to form their own Export Promotion Councils, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today after laying the foundation stone of the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust's special economic zone (SEZ) at the Nhava Seva Port near Mumbai.
He underscored the need for the Centre and states to work together to give a fresh thrust to external trade, which he said is a key to economic growth.
He also stressed the need for swift removal of obstacles in the way of SEZs.
"We at the Centre have to team up with the state governments for export promotion and the states should also work hard individually to help drive exports," Modi said.
Modi announced an ambitious 'Sagarmala' project for the maritime states which would become "gateways to India's prosperity".
He said that the 'Sagarmala' would envisage not merely port development, but port-led development including, special economic zones, rail, road, air and waterway connectivity with the hinterland, with linkages of cold storage and warehousing facilities.
The Rs.6,000-crore port-based multi-product SEZ and its major component, the Port Connectivity Highway Project, are being built by the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT).
Pointing out that two-thirds of all global trade and 50 percent of container trade goes through the Indian Ocean, the prime minister emphasised the importance of ports which had potential to become "gateways to India's prosperity".
SEZs can provide huge employment opportunities to local youth, thus preventing migration, and coupled with such activities, the development of manufacturing, service and industrial sectors, and infrastructure can improve the life of the countrymen, he said.
He expressed concern at the large number of stalled SEZ projects around the country and said that a high-level team would review the situation and resolve them at the earliest.
Stressing the need to promote exports, Modi said that the government had recently convened meeting with states to identify bottlenecks in exports and they would be given permission to form their own export promotion councils.
"Unless we manufacturers in export promotion, and unless the states and centre work together, we cannot achieve new heights in exports. Let the states identify their core strengths for export and let there be competition among states for exports," Modi said.
Discussing ways and means to create an easy environment for maritime businesses and youth, Modi pointed out that the central government recently scrapped the requirement of annual renewal for shipping licenses and has now made for lifetime the licence validity.
For this, he lauded the efforts of Union Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari, who was also present at the event.