Emerging Kerala, dream and reality
Sometimes, being a pessimist has its advantages, either you are right or you are pleasantly surprised. When it comes to Emerging Kerala, I try not to be a pessimist and subdue the cynical Malayalee in me. I have deep rooted family, business and farming interests in the state, any initiative to promote development is welcome.
Sadly, the staring gaze of reality is strong enough to prevent me from assuming Emerging Kerala will be the magic pill that Kerala needs to shift gears in its path to development. Emerging Kerala Facebook page and its blog have been highlighting business success stories from Kerala, as well as citing successful examples of businessmen who have made it in the state.
They are truly inspirational stories but they are mere exceptions. What makes them interesting is that they have succeeded inspite of all the hurdles thrown at them by the industrial and business environment in the state.
What Emerging Kerala needs to be, in my humble opinion, is policy.
The state government needs to come out with a clearly defined policy on how it intends to develop Kerala:
- How will we ensure that we have access to affordable and dependable power supply?
- How can we lower costs for transport and logistics?
- How can we ensure better roads, ports and airports management?
- How can we ensure that businesses in the state have access to low cost capital?
Right now Emerging Kerala looks like a showcase of real-estate projects. Though the government had signed 95 Memoranda of Understanding for business ventures to the tune of Rs.11,000 crore in a global investors’ meet held in 2003, only a few materialised.
According to a report in The Hindu, out of the 11 mega projects to be showcased at the investors’ meet, six are from Kochi. This includes the Petroleum, Chemical and Petrochemical Investment region, Kochi-Palakkad National Investment and Manufacturing Zone, Electronic Hub and Oceanarium, besides the High Speed Rail Corridor and seaplane operations - Emerging Kerala or Emerging Kochi?.
Let’s take the example of ‘seaplane operations.’ Does the state government of Kerala have a policy on how to manage and operate a ‘seaplane’ industry? It sure does sound very interesting, but what happens next? How many players will be involved? What is the criteria? Does anyone with a seaplane idea just show up for the Emerging Kerala event? On a seaplane?
If we have a policy in place, we wont need an Emerging Kerala event. Investors will know how to fly down and invest in the state 365 days a year because the policy will provide clarity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against development.
The issue here is whether we benefit more from putting on a show called ‘Emerging Kerala’ or do we put our heads together and come out with a transparent policy for development and investment in the state?