Growing Gujarat Only For A Vibrant India?
It is seven years now I am witnessing the tale of Vibrant Gujarat Summit. The 2015 edition of the Vibrant Gujarat summit was all about “globalising” the event and taking it into a higher orbit with the help of the eight partner countries who had sponsored the event. This time around, the hype was of a different kind. Its ambitious agenda and high-profile guest list boasted names like John F Kerry, the US secretary of state, and Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, Tshering Tobgay, Prime Minister, Bhutan and Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank. In all, 101 countries and 1400 foreign delegates participated in the global business hub event and 479 institutional tie-ups and knowledge sharing agreements were finalised.
In 2003, when the Vibrant Gujarat Summit was first conceived by Modi, the state was passing through a crisis. Trust was lacking. The First Vibrant Gujarat was planned to make Gujarat as the investor’s destination, which has over the years turned into a global business hub. This year the partner countries included America, Australia, Canada, China, Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore and South Africa. This time too, the emphasis was on who came (the Americans and European governments) and who didn’t (some public sector undertakings and delegates from Pakistan), than the more real achievement of Modi—winning the 2014 elections.
The ‘Make in India’ campaign too was received at the summit as a brilliant concept. China is reducing its manufacturing systems. India can step up and fill in. The issues here are that Gujarat needs a global supply chain, and the roads, ports and other infrastructure to support it. Of the 21,304 Memorandums of Understanding that were signed during the seventh edition of Vibrant Gujarat Summit, more than 17,000 were related to micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) sector alone. As per the figures released by the state government, 4,223 MoUs related to large sector industries while 17,081 MoUs were in the MSME sector. The state government also entered into 1,230 ‘strategic partnership’ agreements in 36 sectors. The State was trying to attract investors in the defence sector, as the Government of India has recently changed the national policy for manufacturing defence related equipment and items to attract foreign investment.
The detractors underplayed the Summit, calling it just another big talk of making India the “easiest” country to make things. Just take the example of PayPal. It’s doesn’t work in India. It’s one of the easiest ways to transfer money, and it doesn’t work or not allowed to work in the way it does. Every little thing takes so long in India. It’s not just the policies or the politicians that are not right, it’s more so the attitude of people that need big time fixing. It shows the deep sense of insecurity and, to some extent, an inferiority complex, among the easily excitable followers of Narendra Modi that they feast over statistics of investment commitments made by businesses and government officials at the Summit.
Though the US has brought its largest ever business delegation of 130 members to India, US businesses, however, have sought clarity on government policies as well as early passage of the recently promulgated ordinances on insurance and land. American investors still need clarity on issues such as retrospective taxation, goods and services tax, land and labour laws and intellectual property rights. GST will have to get off the ground. Then there is the case of retrospective tax. No CEO will commit new capital when there is a $2 billion tax case pending.
“The world is re-awakening to a promise of a resurgent India. Over the past one year, investors are hopeful of the government,” said Ajaypal Singh Banga, chairman of the US-India Business Council and president and CEO MasterCard.
“If all the world is a stage, here is the theatre,” says one of the hoardings announcing the Summit. “Although the parameters might have changed (from promoting Gujarat to promoting India) the spirit remains the same. Modi is reaching out to the world, inviting them saying that, look, India is going to be a wonderful place to be,” said Piyush
Pandey, executive chairman and creative director for Ogilvy & Mather India and South Asia.
Saurabh Patel, Minister in Charge of the Summit summed up, “Amari pase takat che. Ame takat thi aagal vadhiye che (We have might, we are moving ahead with our own might”). I want to see Gujarat emerge not only as a front-runner driving India’s engine of growth but also as a powerful state in an India able to stand up for itself in the comity of nations,’ said Modi.
It is important to lift the poor, because you cannot grow an economy only by making the rich richer. The entire election campaign was run on creating more jobs and improves quality of life. So Modi cannot ignore them now.