Gujarat plans blend of culture, business to rebuild image

Friday, 26 September 2003, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: After last year's communal violence put off domestic and overseas investors, Gujarat is all set to launch a major push to rebuild its image as the preferred business destination in India.

The Gujarat government has decided to go for global branding by organising a mega investors meet coinciding with the popular Hindu festival of Navratri, the nine nights of music and mirth, dance and devotion.

The three-day "Vibrant Gujarat" meet, to begin in Ahmedabad from Sunday, is tipped to attract a large number of potential investors from Britain, the U.S. and a host of other countries, besides local industrialists.

"The main objective of the meet is to re-start the interface between the government and the industry that had got ruptured in past few months," said an official associated with the conference.

"We are not expecting a miraculous outcome but it will at least convey the sense that the government is focussed on creating business opportunities in the state," an official who did not want to be identified told IANS.

Gujarat, which saw a drop in investment inflows in the aftermath of sectarian violence last year that lasted for almost three months, is pulling all the stops to bring the business vibrancy back to the state.

In terms of total investments, Gujarat has lost the second position it had held through 1990s to Tamil Nadu, while it is placed fourth in terms of foreign direct investment (FDI), according to a recent survey.

As of April 2003, Gujarat had a share of 9.47 percent (1409.95 billion) in total investments in India, while Maharashtra (10.49 percent) and Tamil Nadu (10.35 percent) led the pack.

As part of its new drive to woo investors, the government has said it would allow foreigners and non-resident Indians visiting Gujarat to get liquor permits on the basis of their passports.

The relaxation, which came few days ahead of the Vibrant Gujarat meet as part of its new tourism policy, will continue around the year.

The Gujarat government has also unveiled a new industrial policy that lays emphasis on the petroleum sector, generation of gas-based power and promotion of agro-industries.

The state also plans to develop infrastructure like roads, railways, ports and airports to complement the special economic zones (SEZs), which it views as the "future growth engines."

Also on the cards is a "NRI Investment Trust Bank" to attract foreign direct investment as well as investment from NRIs.

"The feel-good factors of the state have to be visible and noticed by prospective investors," Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had declared while unveiling the industrial policy.

"The basic aim of the policy is to create an atmosphere in which an investor would think of Gujarat first," he said. A committee headed by Modi would be set up to chart the roadmap for privatising 54 state-controlled units.

The announcement about privatisation is widely seen as one more attempt to convince potential investors of its commitment to economic reforms.

Analysts say Gujarat is also revising its economic policies in a bid to emerge as the "petroleum capital" of India. The state has emerged as a major hub for petroleum and petrochemical products.

Gujarat is home to one of the world's largest petroleum refineries and three new liquefied natural gas terminals are coming up in the state.

The government said it would focus on the state's vast potential in gems and jewellery, textile and garment industries at the investors' meet.

"Gujarat has inherent strength in these sectors. Gujarat accounts for nearly 80 percent of diamonds processed in India and 90 percent of these are processed in and around Surat alone," said D. Rajgopal, the state's principal secretary.

Industry analysts say Gujarat has the potential to attract large-scale domestic and overseas investments if the government provides them with the right environment to operate in.

"Business goes wherever they get the best deal," said an official of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

"If the government manages to address the problems faced by the industry and streamlines the processes, it will definitely get investment."

Source: IANS
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