By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: There is no mistaking it. Kerala has erased its image of being an investment-hostile State despite the campaign of misinformation being peddled day in and day out by the Opposition parties.
Two recent developments have knocked the stuffing out of the argument of the Cassandras and doubting Thomases. Firstly, Kerala’s Startup Mission (KSUP) has emerged as Asia’s best performer in promoting talents. This is revealed in the Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2022. The State has also become the fourth globally. KSUM has been able to fund as many as 200 start-ups after identifying over 900 innovators deserving of encouragement last year. The agency was also successful in providing 2,500 hours of mentorship to startups besides organizing 15 investor meets and industry meets, and more than 40 workshops. No wonder, 2022 saw the KSUM emerging with a “notable rise” in the stature of the State’s startup ecosystem.
If this is not enough to demolish the negative propaganda unleashed by the detractors, here is another feather in the State’s cap. A World Benchmark Study has ranked the Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM) as one of the world’s top five business incubators! Finding a place among the five top business incubators in the world is no mean achievement and represents a handsome recognition for KSUM’s efforts in creating a robust incubation programmes. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan himself acknowledged the KSUM’s remarkable feat by saying that the recognition will result in more investments coming to Kerala’s startup sector in future.
In a major policy decision, the Kerala Government has decided to collaborate with more private developers to ensure that buildings in its IT parks are constructed on the public-private model. It is a significant development in that it is the first time the State is opening up to private developers on such a big scale. The State’s readiness to collaborate with more developers is part of its efforts to add at least 10 million sq feet for IT needs by 2026. Presently, IT parks in the state boast a combined built-up area of 20 million sq feet.
The development activities are not confined to the IT sector alone. The state was witness to a big boom in the realty sector, which recorded a 39.47 rise in the number of projects compared the previous year. Kerala Real Estate Regulatory Authority says 159 new projects were registered with the (K-RERA) in 2022. The figure for 2021 was 114. Of this 148 were residential projects. Ernakulam topped with the highest number of 80. Thiruvananthapuram came second with 72 and Thrissur third with 25. The number of units went up from 5,933 in 2021 to 12,018 last year.
An important development has been the decision of Haritha Keralam Mission to clear the streams in Western Ghats to facilitate smooth water drainage from hills and valleys and prevent landslips during monsoon. To start with, the stream clearing project will be implemented in 230 panchayats. The idea is to complete the project before the next monsoon season. This is a significant development as the main reason why 60 per cent of landslips happen is the absence of a proper water drainage system. Proper water drainage system will prevent absorption of water in the soil. This being the case, the project will prevent landslides in the Western Ghat regions.
The state government has also come up with a Rs 9000-crore master plan to expand and diversify public sector units. As per the plan, 405 projects will be implemented in three phases in 41 public sector undertakings. The master plan, to be implemented over a 10-year period, is expected to double the revenue of Rs 480 crore received by the Government from various projects besides creating more job opportunities.
The biggest rebuff to the allegations of people who are busy tarnishing the image of the State is the remarkable turnaround of the manufacturing sector in the State. The launch of 1,24,249 enterprises within 10 months of the current financial year effectively debunks the claims of the detractors. The manufacturing sector’s contribution to Kerala’s GDFP rose from seven per cent in 2016 to 14 per cent in 2021. Inaugurating the Mega Entrepreneurs Meet at Kochi recently on January 21, the Chief Minister referred to the praise the state received from the Union Government for launching the “entrepreneurship year programme. Although Kerala’s population is only 2.6 per cent of the country’s population, the State contributes 4.2 per cent of the country’s GDP.
The CM also sought to debunk the propaganda that Kerala is close to landing in a debt trap. The data provided by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) says the state’s public debt was 29 per cent of the GDP in 2016. It grew to 37 per cent in 2021. But the debt burden of the Centre has gone up from 47 per cent of the GDP in 2016 to 59 per cent in 2021. Kerala also boasts growth indicators which are better than the national average. (IPA Service)