Gujarat is India's economic powerhouse: Modi

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New Delhi, Jan 9: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi today projected his reformist image before the NRIs by announcing that his state was the first to abolish the 170-year-old octroi system and sought their investments in Special Economic Zones.

''Gujarat has become the first octroi-free state and the government is committed to remove impediments in the growth of trade and business,'' Mr Modi said, while interacting with Gujarati and other NRIs on the sidelines of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PVD) conclave here. Positioning Gujarat as India's economic powerhouse and engine of growth, he also made a fervent plea to the cash-rich Indian diaspora to invest liberally and get on board the western state's dramatic economic turnaround.

The charismatic chief minister, who courts adulation and controversy in equal measure said, Gujarat had provided a model of development that was based not on giving incentives but by providing world class infrastructure to investors and entrepreneurs.

''Our progress is policy-driven, our policies are reform-based and our reforms are people-oriented. I believe in the principle of 'least government and maximum governance' which translates into providing a conducive environment for the growth of industries,'' he said.

Saluting the entrepreneurial skills of Gujaratis, he said they understand the language of business better than most other communities in the world.

''This is precisely the reason why one finds Gujaratis forming the largest proportion of the Indian diaspora in prominent business activities across the world. In Gujarat, we are very clear in our approach and development strategies, which are formulated in a collective manner leading to inclusive growth.'' Mr Modi said Gujarat provides the best and most conducive environment for business based on good governance, investment friendly government and an integrated approach of development.

In support of his contention, he cited the report of Deutsche Bank Research Group that carried out an analysis on the investment-worthiness of different states in India, and it revealed that Gujarat topped Indian states in 28 out of 32 parameters for investment.

He said Gujarat has been clocking a growth rate of over 10 per cent during the past few years and exuded confidence that it would achieve the target of 11.2 per cent set by the Planning Commission.

According to him, the conversion of the investment proposals, SEZ policy, petroleum and natural gas and turnaround of PSUs were the indicators of Gujarat' s robust economy.

Mr Modi also asked the NRIs to become a partner in Gujarat's phenomenal turnaround with emotional bonding and give a fillip to its growth.

Dwelling at length of Gujarat's economic transformation, he said the Planning Commission had set a target of 10.2 per cent growth rate for Gujarat during the Tenth Plan, the highest not only for an Indian state but also for any Asian country.

''Gujarat exceeded the target by achieving a growth rate of 10,6 per cent and we are also optimistic of meeting the target of 11.2 per cent set for the state by the Planning Commission during the XIth Plan,'' he said.

Pointing out that industries, agriculture and service sector were the three focus areas of his government, the chief minister said he was looking forward to forge collaborative arrangements with the Indian diaspora in all these areas.

Listing out the benefits that Gujarat would offer to prospective investors and entrepreneurs, he said the state had embarked upon a massive plan of development based on ports and a sound railway network.

He pointed out that Gujarat is the first state to have private railways and this would help in providing efficient connectivity to ports.

Mr Modi also took pride in the massive strides the state had made in social infrastructure. He said drop out rates in schools had been brought down from 49 per cent to three per cent, and by 2010, when Gujarat would be celebrating its Golden Jubilee, it would become zero per cent.

He said his government would launch 'Nirmala Bala' (Healthy Child) project next year to reduce the infant mortality rate, and sought the support of the NRIs for making it a tremendous success.

UNI

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