Punjab deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal starts his ‘Marketing Punjab’ tour this week, targeting an investment of ` 10 lakh crore over two years. The state has identified health and biosciences as the two key areas in which investment will be sought from industrialists in Bengaluru, Mumbai, New Delhi, even Taiwan and possibly South Korea.
But any wooing plan must make sure - considering Punjab’s dodgy governance image - that it is willing to only facilitate and not coerce. To counter the perception of a laggard, the state must put its money on the table.
The first step that should be taken before Sukhbir takes that plane to Bengaluru, is to create a fund, named Punjab Investment Promotion Fund, with at least 10% of the expected concessions that the government intends to offer to the industrialists.
This will signal that it is serious about the offer and any committed-to proposals would be cleared by a designated time and through either the much-vaunted single-window clearance system or online.
Another incentive that must be given is creating a separate corpus for education and pledge that till the time the state’s abysmal education facilities look up, training costs for labour will be initially shared by the state in a fixed manner and then phased out.
After the deputy CM takes these steps, specific sectors can be put up for discussion, listing out the challenges and opportunities that the state offers. Textile manufacturing must figure high on the agenda now that cotton is gaining in popularity among farmers, the damage to the crop this year due to floods notwithstanding.
Armed with what he has termed the ‘Earn Your Incentive’ industrial plan launched in June, Sukhbir has two things that he can perhaps promise with any degree of conviction - a power-surplus state and an assured supply of agri-raw material. However, it is not clear if he has chalked out a strategy and spoken to farmers about it. What should be his marketing strategy to get the big-ticket investments? The state has to pitch itself as an ideal destination for manufacturing auto ancillary units, especially tractors. Tractors were the one vehicle segment that acted as a bulwark, even as automobile sales have kept falling over the past two years.
Solar power is an exciting option in the SME segment with large employment potential. So is the setting up of a petrochemical hub near Bathinda.
>Building new vertical cities, actual nervecentres adjoining a rural-urban continuum, must figure prominently in the discussions so that migration to urban areas is curbed to an extent and jobs are created en masse.
The purported focus of the wooing exercise on health and biosciences is difficult to explain. It may be because the investments that these sectors make require less land. Availability of a relatively larger pool of talented people in these fields could also have weighed in.
The major challenge of land remains. The government will have to find its unused land and make it available for industrial use and facilitate acquisition.