Global Investors’ Summit: Rekindling hopes for investments in J&K
Now that the government has rekindled some hope for creating an atmosphere for investment in J&K, the political instability, which acts as the biggest roadblock in the process, needs to be taken care of, writes Sanjay Sapru.
The idea of holding “Global Investors’ Summit” in Jammu and Kashmir was conceived soon after the abrogation of Article 370 and the subsequent bifurcation of the erstwhile state into two union territories. According to the Jammu and Kashmir Trade Promotion Organisation (JKTPO), the Global Investors’ Summit will showcase the policy & regulatory environment and investment opportunities across different focus sectors to boost manufacturing and employment generation in the UT. JKTPO has been nominated as the nodal agency for organizing and managing the Jammu & Kashmir Global Investors’ Summit 2020, with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) being its national partner, Ernst & Young (EY) as the knowledge partner, and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as the media partner.
Endowed with abundant natural resources, the J&K UT can excel in areas beyond tourism and hospitality, handloom and handicrafts. The region shows promising potential in several sectors as it has the desired rankings. For instance, J&K leads the country in saffron production (the saffron grown in Kashmir is among the best globally in terms of quality, far superior to that produced in Spain and Iran). J&K also leads the country in the production of apple, walnut, and almond and is the second major producer of wool in India.
After a rigorous study and field visits by government functionaries and private players, the potential investors have been assured every possible help. Investors from Bangalore, Kolkata, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, and Ahmedabad have been roped in to be part of the first-of-its-kind Business event. The government also looks to attract tourists by taking certain new initiatives and thereby boosting the economy of the region. The interactions between the visiting investors have sent positive signals to Businessmen associated with the tourism sector, directly or indirectly. Based on these interactions, the JKTPO has identified 14 sectors for investment. In the first phase, Tourism & Hospitality, Film Tourism, Horticulture & Post Harvest Management, Agro & Food Processing, Milk, Poultry, Fisheries & Wool Production, Agriculture & Mulberry Production for Silk, Herbal & Medicinal Plants, Health & Pharmaceutical Manufacturing, IT & ITES, Renewable Energy, Infrastructure and Real Estate, Handloom and Handicraft, Education and Skill Development sectors have been opened up for private investment.
After conducting road-shows in multiple cities of India to inform and attract potential investors, JKTPO says that it has signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with different industries on projects. These MoUs promise a potential investment to the tune of a whopping Rs 6318 crores. It is pertinent to recall that Gujarat had signed nearly 28,360 MoUs during the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2019 and the agreements are expected to generate over 21 lakh jobs. Furthermore, during the ninth edition of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit, an investment worth over Rs 4.62 trillion, was pledged across sectors in Gujarat.
The government in UT J&K has to take a very different approach than the rest of the country to make a success of the Jammu & Kashmir Global Investors’ Summit. Political instability, unique climatic conditions, accessibility, and geographical conditions are a few factors to be taken into consideration. Speaking of which, all business sectors are facing a slew of problems in day-to-day operations. For instance, production, marketing, poor infrastructure, and limited financial resources are among the major impediments here. More to the point: large-scale industries cannot survive here. It is, therefore, imperative that small-scale enterprises are considered as the lifeblood of the industrial sector of the newly formed UT of Jammu and Kashmir.
The political turmoil of the last three decades has impacted every single sphere of human activity in Jammu and Kashmir. The economy remains in shambles, basic infrastructure facilities like power, roads, and communication systems are far from being satisfactory and together all these shortcomings have been the cause of under-development here. Based on the current local infrastructural facilities available on the ground, it seems that we have selected too many goals to be achieved right away, which may not be realizable and realistic. This may lead to a situation wherein the J&K Global Investors’ Summit will never see the light of the day.
Implementing the following suggestions, in the first phase, will help in achieving the desired objectives:
1) Smart City: The most feasible thing to do is to give a boost to the Srinagar Smart City project that was approved in 2016. In 2017, the implementation of Smart City project was envisaged to be done by a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), created for it, under which all the components of Smart City project like planning, appraisal, approval, release of funds, implementation, management, operation, monitoring, and evaluation would be done. Despite the SPV, not much headway has been made. The funds for the project stand allocated but the utilization is minimal. New Smart City is the core ingredient of Modi’s “Naya Kashmir Vision” and to make it a reality, we need to fast-track its execution. Fast-tracking the project would only be possible if the Smart City is based at a new location rather than retrofitting the existing old city as per the current plan.
2) Provision of Economic Assistance to Migrant Population: People who were forced to leave the Valley in 1990 are vested with the right kind of education and exposure in varied fields — medicine, IT, tourism, corporate world, media, education, etc., across the world. Roping in their services in the building of “Naya Kashmir” could be beneficial. This strategy would also enable them to re-establish their broken links with the Valley.
3) Taking State Skill Development Mission to Grass-root Level: One of the most challenging aspects for achieving the desired objectives of attracting investments in the Valley and to ensure its stability and sustainability is to provide investors with adequately trained human resource. Even as the numbers of the unemployed are swelling each year, the place lacks miserably in terms of trained and skilled human resources. More than formal educational degrees, the employers are more interested in the generic skills as are required for the jobs they have to offer. It is, therefore, necessary to ensure that skilled manpower is available locally. For achieving this objective, the government, in consultation with the investors, must identify special training and courses so that the local youths become employable. Skill development department is already in place, it needs to seriously initiate the process of imparting necessary skills to the local youth as would make them fit for the jobs industry will have to offer.
4) Focus on Core Areas: Jammu and Kashmir’s economy is predominantly dependent on agriculture and allied activities, in addition to tourism, hospitality, and handicrafts. The last 30 years of turmoil have delayed the implementation of modern concepts for the growth of these core sectors. It is imperative to adopt new techniques and innovative models in these core sectors for better economic growth.
Jammu and Kashmir continue to remain an economic backwater. Now that the government has rekindled some hope for creating an atmosphere for investment in J&K the political instability, which acts as the biggest roadblock in the process, needs to be taken care of. The need of the hour is to remove all the stumbling blocks in the way of industrial development of the UT of Jammu and Kashmir. Besides the political instability, the government will also have to take care of the poor infrastructure, poor connectivity (both physical and telecommunications), shortage of electricity, and lack of industrial training institutes, etc. Furthermore, it would be advantageous and advisable to initially start investing in limited sectors only.