Winds of change in Kerala
By Madhu Chittora
Make no bones about it. Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has set his heart on making the state one of the front-runners in the race to progress and prosperity. He would like to see it developed into an industrial and investment-friendly modern destination. Perhaps signing of agreements on February 7 last year on the Vallarpadam project between Cochin Port Trust and Dubai Port was just the beginning. The foundation stone for the project will be laid by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh between February 14 and 18, he reveals. The CM is confident enough to induce investors in a big way, despite the recent calamity. Kerala expects an inflow of Rs 30,000 crore in the near future, and has Rs 49,000 crore worth of project proposals in hand.
As a result of the recent natural calamity that devastated South-East Asia and parts of south India, Kerala suffered only a marginal loss of Rs 1,358 crore. Rehabilitation work for the tsunami-affected coastal districts is in full swing. "No impact of tsunami is seen on the design and cost of the Vallarpadam project," contends Chandy, in an exclusive interview with Projectmonitor.
About new projects, he discloses, "Dubai Internet City wants to establish a Dubai Smart City in Cochin at an estimated cost of Rs 1,500 crore, for which discussion is on. At the same time, my government is hardly facing any problem on the LNG regasification project in Kochi." In fact, he is so cocksure about the success of LNG that he expects a large number of buyers.
The government has also chalked out plans to provide all possible facilities to investors. As part of this ambitious plan, a single window clearance has been established and an Investment Promotion Board has been formed. Any investor who is interested in setting up a project worth over Rs 25 crore can directly approach the board. What's more, if one is interested in transferring his project can straightaway contact KINFRA which has acquired land for such projects. In addition, the government has assured non-stop power supply all over the state.
In decades gone by, Kerala has never been an investor's favourite destination, thanks to the once-prevalent militant trade unionism that opposed new investments and industries. But the winds of change are blowing in all directions. "The workers and union leaders are now willing to cooperate with the government. The atmosphere is more congenial than ever before," remarks Oommen Chandy.
(31 January 2005)