Punjab’s Rs 5 lakh crore investment ‘dream’

Punjab’s Rs 5 lakh crore investment ‘dream’

- in Analysis, Special Post

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh aspires to bring Rs 5 lakh crore investment to the state in next five years, which means that Rs 1 lakh crore every. It is a grand task which the Chief Minister has set for his team and one hopes that his dream does not turn out to be a ‘pipedream’ worth Rs 5 lakh crore. Punjab has all the ingredients to attract investments in a number of fields such as manufacturing, textile and apparel, cycle and cycle parts, automobiles
and auto components, light engineering, leather and sports goods, petro-chemicals, secondary steel, agriculture and food processing, electronics, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, aerospace and defence. In the services sector, there is a huge potential for IT and ITES, life sciences, logistics, tourism and hospitality, entertainment and film industry, healthcare, education services, retail and realty. What is, however, perennially missing is the right kind of efforts and planning to get investments.

The previous SAD-BJP tried its level best and even succeeded in getting investment commitments worth several crores of rupees from different industrial houses during Punjab Summits, but the poor follow-ups and bureaucratic red-tapism proved a major hurdle in the smooth flow of investments into the state. With the change of the government alone, the bureaucratic approach does not change unless they are made accountable to the responsibilities they are supposed to
take care of. Deadlines should be sacrosanct. Former Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal had put in his best possible efforts to make the Single Window system work in an efficient manner so that industrialists do not have to move from one pillar to another for the needful clearances, but the bureaucrats were never serious in taking the task to its logical conclusion. Therefore, a lot will depend upon the works ethos which Captain Amarinder Singh would like to develop in the state.

The previous regime had signed MoUs worth several million dollars. It takes at least a year or so for an MoU to take the shape of an agreement, the first key step towards the execution of a project. Since Chief Minister Singh has reiterated his resolve to maintain consistency in policies of the state government, he must ask for a status report on all MoUs signed during the last 10 years and fix the responsibility if there is any lapse on the part of the officers concerned and take all MoUs to their logical conclusion. The Chief Minister, who on Tuesday reviewed the draft policy of new Industrial Policy, rightly stressed the need for revival of existing industries
and focusing on promoting ‘business first’ philosophy. He means nothing but real business when he emphasised the need for ‘a mindset change in the government, with focus on facilitation. Industry and business houses should be treated as partners and not be subjected to suspicion.’

Punjab does not need an out-of-the-box approach to attract domestic and foreign investments. It needs to focus on improving infrastructure and the state has good power and road infra, better education and health facilities, improved law and order situation, no political interference and minimal intervention of the bureaucrats. These are the ingredients which improve the ease of doing business in any state. For want of government support and poor infrastructure, the state’s
medium and small enterprises are neither developing nor expanding. The state government’s keenness in developing four industrial parks and 10 industrial estates is a move in the right direction.

The state government has strategically identified seven core strategic pillars of growth–infrastructure, power, MSME, start-up and entrepreneurship, skill development, ease of doing business and investment promotion and fiscal incentive. These were also the core areas of focus for the previous regime as well. Thrust should be on facilitating the development of 1000 start-ups to enable economic growth and employment generation in the state. The idea to set up 50
entrepreneurship skill development centres in colleges to encourage and motivate youth to go in for self-employment is really good, something new. If possible, some of these centres should come up in higher secondary schools as well. The establishment of common facility centres and seamless online services, backed by re-engineering of processes has become the need of the hour if Punjab has to exploit its potential to become a role model in industrial development.

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