Oommen Chandy in T-20 mode, points at change in investment climate
By Vinod Mathew | Published: 21st January 2013 07:20 AM |
Q: Are you satisfied with the way your government has fared till now? What would you list under the major achievements head? And the biggest shortfall?
A: We’ve succeeded in our effort over the last 20 months to send out a message to the world that Kerala has changed its investment ethos, that we’ve matured as a state and are no longer prone to strike work for whimsical reasons. This is reflected in our rating as a state with minimum mandays lost due to workers’ strike. The youth of Kerala have begun to think different and look beyond traditional jobs. We’ve had a successful run-up on project front in 2013 -- relaxation of cabotage law for the Vallarpadam international container transshipment terminal, final green flag for Kochi Metro, single SEZ status for Smart City project and setting of March 31 deadline for Kannur airport runway construction and the environmental impact report on Vizhinjam port.
I ‘ll own up that we have completely failed to deliver effectively on the waste management front. We are working on a few models successful in places similar to Kerala, but need to regain confidence of the people.
Q: You had two back-to-back international meets hosted in Kochi -- Emerging Kerala and Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. What are the tangible takeaways?
A: It is the changing outlook of Kerala’s youth, reflected in the student entrepreneurship programme that offers 20 per cent attendance and four per cent grace marks and offers close-to-free land in KINFRA Park, Thrikkakara, in Kochi. It has been drawing about 100 applicants every month. Already 10,000 sq ft has been allocated to these young entrepreneurs and we aim to allocate one lakh sq ft to student entrepreneurs by January 12, 2014.
Q: Have we got our act together on the Smart City project with the single SEZ? What is the timeline for the completion of the first phase?
A: The project parameters will get streamlined at the director board meeting scheduled at Nedumbassery on January 31.
Q: Sam Pitroda is mentor for only one state in India. What has he delivered for Kerala so far?
A: His 10-point agenda for the state’s development is coming to implementation stage. Coastal transport leads the list with six out of 14 minor ports in the state ready to undergo infrastructure development under the PPP model for which tenders will soon be floated.
Q: Kerala lags behind other states in power generation, hugely critical for investment, with the last big power project being put up almost 25 years ago. Will your government leverage the 590-km-long coastline to put up power plants based on imported coal or LNG as done by other states with long coastlines?
A: I admit that we need to generate much more power. But in Kerala, sensitive issues such as power plants need public consensus. Working within constraints, we are looking at solar energy so that there are no extraneous issues to drag us down.
Q: You are perceived to be people’s CM, but many of the government policies seem to be targeted to keep small interest groups and not the general public happy?
A: Again, I tell you that many small groups need to be taken along while arriving at policy decisions. This holds true in the case of our stance on FDI in retail, which is opposed to our national policy. You must appreciate that my Mass Contact Programme has cut through a lot of red tape by simplifying procedures for the public.
Q: What would be your top priority segments for the next 20 months?
A: There could be more controversies, including political, in the next 20 months also. Still, I would start with a 2030 vision statement to be ready by the end of this fiscal as such a blueprint for the state’s long-term growth has so far been missing.