New Delhi: Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy portrayed the transformation planned for his state with knowledge based agro-industrial projects, a Kochi-Palghat-Coimbatore industrial corridor, a 250 kmph hi-speed rail corridor connecting capital Tiruvanathapuram with Mangalore, three metros, specialised ports and coastal shipping, IT and biotech parks and high quality manpower development, at an ASSOCHAM event held on July 2 at New Delhi.
The Chief Minister invited the private sector participation at the global investor event “Emerging Kerala” to be held at Kochi this September. “With14 sectoral conferences this event would open up business opportunities in aerospace, green energy, financial services, food and agriculture, ports, logistics, ship building, IT, Biotech amid other sectors,” said Mr Chandy while addressing an ‘Industry Interactive Session’ organised by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).
The Chief Minister dispelled the impression about labour problems in his state pointing out that in the last year not even a single industriali stoppage had occurred due to strikes. “The labour problem is a past story” he said.
The Chief Minister accompanied with State Finance Minister K.M.Mani and Planning Minister P. C. Jacob and top state officials and Economic Adviser Shaffi Mather also revealed that the controversy over imposing of toll ton highways had been solved and this had opened up construction of national highways for private-public partnership (PPP) funding.
ASSOCHAM past president Anil Agarwal who presided lauded Kerala’s achievement with its number one ranking in human development index among all the states of the country, 100 per cent literacy, lowest infant mortality, high level of health care. He hoped the state would be at the top in industry and economic development also as it already was having a per capita income of Rs. 67,312, far higher than the national average of Rs.46,492 (in 2009-10) and blessed with a intelligent and skilled population. ASSOCHAM would offer full support to the State Government’s efforts at attracting investment. ASSOCHAM vice-president Sunil Kanoria highlighted the concerns investors could face in the participating in the State’s growth. The Chief Minister also released the ASSOCHAM-Frost & Sullivan report titled “Kerala: Road Map for Inclusive Growth 2012” on the occasion.
Answering questions from the gathered industry and business leaders the Chief Minister said the state was developing a large number of micro and small enterprises rather than going for large industrial projects as it was a densely populated one . He revealed that the Kochi-Palghat-Coimbatore industrial corridor would open up huge opportunities for industrial units and business and trade at the nine industrial and two agro processing zones, the power hub and two tourism zones. The corridor was expected to generate seven lakh jobs with an outlay of Rs. 23,500 crores.
On the critical issue of land acquisition, the Chief Minister assured that there would not be any problem as Government had already set up industrial and biotech parks and green zones. The State was known for its exotica of quality spices with worldwide demand and commercial crops from pepper to rubber. The green houses would develop biotech based varieties with high commercial value. The Kerala Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (KINFRA) already had acquired over 400 acres of land for setting up food processing units.
The State is developing a Marine Park at Beypore for sea food industry and a under the sea park for tourists, a Kerala Park for coconut at Thrissur, a Spices Park at Idukki, two Mega Food Parks in Wayanad and Kinaloor. The Chief Minister held up these initiatives as providing huge entrepreneurial opportunities.
The infrastructure of the State was inviting further investment, with its three existing airports, and one more planned, its 18 ports some of which like the Vallarpadam container port, the Vizhinjam transhipment port would enhance the value of international shipping lanes that touch the southern most state. The naval academy coming up at Beypore in Vayanad district would be a major attraction for investors. The State was also developing coastal shipping routes as an alternative to land based trade routes as freight transport by ship was more economic.
Mr.Chandy referred to the IT Park in Tiruvantapuram and the Smart City coming up at Kochi. An Entrepreneur Development Mission is promoting one lakh young people to be self-employed through some 10,000 new ventures. Yet another initiative is the Telecom Innovation hub. This would encourage student level start ups in telecommunications and electronics. It would also encourage technology incubators growing some day to rival the Silicon Valley of the US.
The tourism industry of Kerala is well known and along with it has also grown the health care industry. Medical care in Kerala is ten times cheaper than that in the West ye the quality is the same. Besides the State has its own indigenous medical system of great repute that is attracting clients from aborad. The State plans to increase number of domestic tourists from four million to eight millions and foreign tourists from 0.6 million to one million and above.
With 1300 food processing units already in the State and a variety of fruits and vegetables and spices available this is another area the State hopes would attract large scale investment. The biotechnology support for horticulture and floriculture through the biotech parks would further enhance the state’s attraction for investment in this field.
On the power front Mr. Chandy frankly admitted that the State was not suited for thermal power but had a number of hydro power sites available. But 4000 MW thermal project to be ready by 2020 was being developed. The hydro projects submitted by the State to the Centre were awaiting environment clearances. The State Government would go for mini hydro power projects and is developing wind, solar and biomass based power projects where again there was great scope for PPP investment.
Regarding FDI in retail chains, the Chief Minister pointed out that Kerala had the highest level of consumption expenditure of the population in the whole country. Its retail sales were well organised and highly innovative. Hence the Government felt that FDI was not needed in Kerala.
A state profile presented by ASSOCHAM knowledge partner Frost and Sullivan team headed by Mr. Srikant showed that not only was per capita income at Rs 67,312 (2009 level) highest in the country, the household expenditure on medical/healthcare and on durable goods was also highest. The large foreign remittance arising from Keralites working in West Asia, America and other regions sustained a fast growing economy. The Chief Minister also released the state profile and prospects of growth and industrialisation brought out by ASSOCHAM with Frost and Sullivan on this occasion. The report also revealed that the financial and related services sector constituted 7.6 per cent of the employment in the state and community, social and personal services absorbed 47.5 per cent of the employment. Mr. Chandy specifically mentioned the opportunity in the financial and business services generated by the high household consumption and personal income levels and foreign remittances.
Significantly the ASSOCHAM/ F&S report showed that unemployment had dramatically come down in the state from25 per cent 2005 to a mere 8.8 per cent in 2009-10. The Chief Minister said the promotion of large number of vocational professional educational institutions was creating a highly skilled young people from among the 3.3 crore population in the State.
ASSOCHAM National Secretary-General D. S. Rawat announced at the meet that his organisation has opened a window for investors to send their proposals for the Emerging Kerala event and ASSOCHAM would be closely interacting with the organisers in pushing the proposals by its members.
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