Need to shun showbiz

The postponement of the Global Investors’ Meet (GIM) to next year is a welcome decision. The reason given that prevailing drought conditions force the government to take the step could be far from a strong one, however, the deferment should be welcome as a pragmatic step. Aside from the local conditions averse to embarking on a major “spectacle” that the global investors’ meets have turned out to be, the depressing global economic environs also would have weighed against going ahead with the GIM. The decision to stagger the meet to next year should give the Government a breather to come back with a proper and well-planned strategy to revive the confidence of the investors.

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The meet which was scheduled for November 23 to 25 has now been rescheduled for February 3 to 5, 2016. The present government government to take the step could be far from a strong one, however, the deferment should be welcome as a pragmatic step.

Aside from the local conditions averse to embarking on a major “spectacle” that the global investors’ meets have turned out to be, the depressing global economic environs also would have weighed against going ahead with the GIM. The decision to stagger the meet to next year should give the Government a breather to come back with a proper and well-planned strategy to revive the confidence of the investors. The meet which was scheduled for November 23 to 25 has now been rescheduled for February 3 to 5, 2016. The present government renamed the GIM as “Invest Karnataka 2015”, but it remains to be seen what shape it takes in 2016, when it is planned to be launched.

Three GIMs have been held so far. The first was organised by the Congress Government in 2001. There was a long hiatus after that, due to political instability that put paid to hopes of the GIM being organised as a regular event.

It was in 2010, when the first BJP Government in Karnataka took over under the Chief Ministership of Mr. B.S.Yeddyurappa that the GIM was revived. It was followed by the 2012 GIM that was held under the stewardship of Mr. Sadananda Gowda, who succeeded Mr. Yeddyurappa, after he was asked to step down mid-way through his tenure by the BJP High Command’s wish.

But the grand spectacle of GIM garnered international focus with many leading international companies showing keen interest in investing in Karnataka. Thus the interim gap did not diminish the importance of the event as a platform for global companies to put their money in the State. This was amply underlined in the grand response with GIMs of 2010 and 2012 generating investment commitments a little over Rs.11 lakh crore, with the latter garnering over Rs.6 lakh crore.

While its utility as an `invest mart’ is gaining momentum in the country, various states making a grand event, Karnataka has a challenge to plan the event much beyond a `routine spectacle’.

The state enjoys an envious ecosystem that should help the Invest Karnataka set new standards not only in mobilising massive investments but regaining its reputation as a proactive state for promoting industrialisation.

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What the Government needs to focus on now is not just launching a pompous GIM as an event but as a paradigm with strong support mechanisms that will remove all the bottlenecks, which pushed the state to the fourth position in Foreign Direct Investment.

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The Government has to measure up to the new challenges like competition from many other states trying to woo investors with a well formulated policy support.

The global investors’ meet will be a test case for the Government to re-instil the confidence of investors, who are fast losing hope on the state.

In fact, the simmering discontent found its expression from the senior executive of the global auto component giant Bosch at a recent meeting of the Bengaluru Chamber of Industry and Commerce.

Mr. Steffen Berns, head of the Indian Unit of Bosch, did not mince his words when he said in the presence of a senior Minister that his company was thinking of diverting its expansion plans to some other state, because of delays in approvals.

“To tell you… it was not for land acquisitions… just for electricity connections. It took us seven months to get approval for simple logistics. But, it is a question of whether we can continue investments in Karnataka, or look to invest in other parts of India or Asia.”

And the tremor was felt by Mr R.V.Deshpande, Higher Education Minister. But he lost no time in assuaging Mr. Berns and won back his goodwill assuring him to address his company’s problem.

The upshot of the event was Mr. Deshpande being entrusted with the Industries portfolio, which was held by the Chief Minister, Mr. Siddaramaiah.

Mr. Siddaramaiah had been criticized by trade bodies, industry representatives and investors for not giving enough time to ensure ‘ease of business,’ in Karnataka at a time when Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were wooing away investors.

According to media reports, during 1990-91 to 2008- 09, the State had approved 601 projects involving an investment of Rs. 5.77 lakh crore.

Of these, only 195 projects were implemented with an investment of Rs. 65,255 crore and provided 5.65 lakh jobs. The poor record though, reflects the concerns of the industry about the Government’s lack of quickness and apathy; many projects also did not take off due to the applicants not seriously pursuing them.

It is in this background, that the postponement of the GIM might be viewed as a godsend. For one, it gives the government a breathing time to strategize with a well-planned policy approach to make the Invest Karnataka a trailblazer. The state has everything in its repository to accomplish this.

Invest Karnataka could as well be a fresh beginning with the state having created an online clearance mechanism through “e-Udyami”, a dedicated portal that promises to make’ ease of doing business’ a delight.


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