Kerala’s share to go up in Indo-US bilateral ties

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Kochi: United States of America has developed a special strategy to peg up the share of Kerala in the burgeoning Indo-US trade, and the first such business mission to the State will arrive in February next year, US Ambassador to India Ms Nancy J Powell said addressing the first plenary session at the ongoing Emerging Kerala 2012 Global Connect.

“The bilateral trade between India and the US has grown five-fold in recent times, touching 90 billion dollars last year. It is expected to cross 100 billion dollars this year, but the share of Kerala is very low, so we have developed a special strategy,” she added.

Setting objectives, targets and underlining ways to achieve the Kerala model development, heavyweights like Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, National Innovation Council chairman Mr Sam Pitroda, Advisor to the Prime Minister Mr T K A Nair, Prof of Economics from Harvard University Dr Gita Gopinath, and NASSCOM President Mr Som Mittal addressed the plenary session on ‘Kerala Development: Enabling Faster, Inclusive and Sustainable Growth’.

Ms Powell pointed out that the US was keen on Kerala being part of this growing bilateral trade relations, and one of the focal areas of the strategy was small, medium and large companies. “After I took over in April, we have been promoting business ties insistently with more engagements outside traditional segments like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. That is why now 2,000 companies are being represented at this Emerging Kerala meet and we are having a pavilion,” she added.

As part of the strategy, an American Business Centre (ABC) was opened in Kochi and another will come up in Thiruvananthapuram to foster business-to-business ties and understand opportunities.

Mr Ahluwalia, while appreciating the Kerala model of development that “has gone into history”, asked the State to benchmark itself against other countries, rather than other states of the country. “We are expecting an economic growth of over 8 per cent, but Kerala should aim at 9 plus,” he said.

Asking Kerala to drop its “over-worry” on self-sufficiency in food, he urged the State to modernise agriculture as a high-value sector. “Kerala was first in IT, but missed the bus. Learn lessons from the past; there is bus to come still,” he said, advising the state to focus on its strong sectors like tourism, IT and BPOs by making favourable policies.

Mr T K A Nair pointed out that the Kerala model with contemporary modification would still be valid. “Kerala should leverage its human resources and ecology as capital to ensure sustainable growth,” he said.

Asking Kerala to shortlist some mega projects that would work for its growth, Mr Pitroda said the state’s traditions abounded in wisdom. “Kerala can emerge as the global champion of low-cost medicines by leveraging the ayurveda sector,” he said, while laying down a broad roadmap for the state’s development.

“I am bullish about Kerala. Against all odds, I hope that some projects will work,’’ he said, brushing aside controversies and debate about anything in India. “There are great ideas, but we need to implement them. We need political will and totally different ways of organising things. We should try for bypassing the existing systems, clarity, scalability and vision.”

Dr. Gita, while suggesting that Kerala was uniquely positioned in tourism and health sectors for growth, wanted the Government to promote young entrepreneurs and assist labour-intensive industries.

Mr. Mittal, pointing out that Kerala held huge potential in the field of IT, said the state needed to do more in the sector. “We need to change the perception among the youngsters who look for opportunities outside. Industry and academia should work together to develop higher skills of specialisation,” he said. “We need an environment of continuity. We don’t want stoppages. The Government, the Opposition and society should make sure that this industry works 24×7. There should be a cosmopolitan environment with English as the business language.”

Kerala Planning Board Vice-chairman Mr. K.M. Chandrasekhar said the state government intended to double the state economy’s potential in the “shortest possible time” after this mega investors’ meet. “The aim is to improve ways about interacting with entrepreneurs and overcome hurdles in the path of development,” he added.

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