TECOM key to success of Smart City Kochi project

TECOM key to success of Smart City Kochi projectDubai has become part of Kerala's growth story with the International Container Transhipment Terminal (ICTT) going on stream and the Smart City project getting ready for take off. Dubai has already been indirectly contributing to the development of the state by providing jobs to 350,000 people. The remittances they send have been playing a big role in sustaining the state's economy.

But economists feel that the direct investment of Rs16 billion by DP World in the ICTT at Cochin port and an estimated investment of Rs20 billion by TECOM in the Smart City at Kakkanad may help the state to catch the industrialisation bus it has missed. The ICTT inaugurated by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on Friday has already attracted investment worth billions in several sectors. The investment in support infrastructure like rail and road links, warehousing, container freight stations alone is worth more than Rs26 billion.

The Cochin Port Trust's project to link ICTT with the state's main trading centres of Aleppey, Kottayam, Quilon and Kannur through inland waterways is also expected to attract substantial investment in barging. The CPT has already set up Ro-Ro terminals at Bolgatty and Willingdon Islands.

The port-based special economic zone being developed at Vallarpadam as part of the ICTT is also expected to bring in investment worth Rs75 billion. The other port-related projects in various stages of implementation are the Rs30 billion LNG Terminal at Puthuvypeen, Rs7.5 billion each single buoy mooring project of Cochin Refineries Limited (CRL) and the Cochin-Kannur-Bangalore gas pipeline of Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) and Rs3 billion cruise terminal.

Apart from these port-related investments, the ICTT and the proposed Smart City project together have spurred huge investments in tourism, realty and services sectors. Curiously many of these projects are promoted by Non-Resident Indians. The Dubai-based Emkay Group headed by Yusuf Ali is investing about Rs18 billion in a mega shopping mall-multiplex-aviation tower and hotel complex at Edapally and a convention centre-cum-five star hotel at Vallarpadam.

The stalemate in the SmartCity project was ended by Yusuf Ali by bringing the governments of Kerala government and TECOM to the negotiating table. The agreement the two sides signed in Trivandrum in the last week of December is expected to help the state to become a major IT hub in the country.

Though Kerala was the first state in the country to promote electronics, the Kerala State Electronics Development Corporation set up in the early seventies as part of that effort failed to drive the state to the resultant Information Technology. As a result, Kerala continues to be left far behind its southern neighbours in software exports. According to the official data released by the federal government, Kerala's software exports during 2009-10 were just 1 per cent of the country's total exports. Even though the state has established a number of IT parks across the state, it has not been able to attract major global players or create sizeable jobs. The total employment created by various parks together is less than 50,000.

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