Kerala CM: Talks will go on with Tecom for SmartCity Kochi project

Kerala Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan today said the government has not terminated negotiations with Dubai-based Tecom for developing SmartCity IT park at Kochi and it will consider alternative partnership only as the last resort.

His statement, made in the state Assembly, came close on the heels of Tecom officials' announcement during SmartCity board meeting at Kochi yesterday that the company would not shy away from a legal battle if the government went to court for arbitration.
Replying to questions on the long-dragging project, Achuthanandan said negotiations with Tecom were still on and the question of going for an alternative partner would arise only as a last option.

However, he added that there was no question of yielding to the Dubai company's demands such as "free-hold" right for part of the land since they were outside the original agreement.

Since the LDF Government came to power, projects worth Rs 10,000 crore have been initiated out of which Rs 2000 crore was direct government investment, he said.

In the last four years, the IT sector boom in Kerala has been three times higher than the national average. The state maintained the growth trend even during the global recession, he added.
A board of directors meeting of the proposed Rs.1,500 crore Smart City Kochi concluded here Monday without taking any decision on the fate of the IT project.
At the same time, the developer Smart City Dubai said it has no plans to pull out from the project.

Speaking to reporters here after the meeting, Smart City Dubai chief executive Fareed Abdul Rehman said: “Some more discussions have to take place because certain issues have to be resolved. We are not asking for anything new but just want those things that have been already written in the agreement and we have not asked anything new.”

He also invited the Chief Secretary of the state to visit their office in Dubai and to see what they are doing there.

Smart City Dubai is sticking to the agreement where it has been mentioned that they would get 12 per cent freehold rights (around 30 acres from the 246 acres). The Kerala government is adamant that it will not allow any real estate dealing and it is on this that the project is hanging fire.

Interestingly, State Fisheries Minister and Smart City Kochi Chairman S. Sarma did not attend the meeting.

And for the first time there were protests at the venue of the meeting. Members of the youth organisation of the ruling Left Democratic Front and the Revolutionary Socialist Party shouted slogans asking the state government to impelement the project.
Amidst continuing deadlock over the implementation of the proposed Smart City Kochi project, yet another meeting of the board of directors of the company would be held here today.

Unlike the initial board meetings, which evoked much interest triggering hopes of the project taking off, the ones held in the recent past had been just to fulfill the mandatory formalities.

The issue of right to freehold over 12 per cent land to Smart City, the Dubai-based promoters and the resultant stalemate over the registration of the land and Special Economic Zone notification had been keeping the project in a limbo for a long time now.

In between, arguments and ultimatums flew thick and fast between the stakeholders Smart City and the government dousing the hopes of the project materializing.

Fareed Abdulrahman, the Chief Executive Officer of Smart City, has pointed out the board meetings were being wrapped up without any significant decisions being taken.

After the last board meeting held on March 29 at which the outstanding issues plaguing the project were not discussed, Minister S. Sarma, who is also the chairman of the Smart City Kochi, had told waiting media persons that the board meeting was not the platform for discussing such issues as they need to be discussed at the government level as they related to an agreement reached between the government and Smart City.

He said that he was a mere board member like the rest of those on the board and was not authorized to take any decision on behalf of the government.

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