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Major breakthrough likely in Global Investors' Meet

By K. Venkiteswaran

KOCHI Jan. 1. As the New Year dawned, the commercial capital of the State is waking up and sprucing itself up to receive prospective investors from around the globe.

Billed as the biggest investment summit, the Global Investors' Meet (GIM) is to be formally declared open by the Prime Minister, A.B. Vajpayee, at the International Convention Centre here on January 18. The meet is expected to set the stage for focused negotiations on an array of projects across diverse sectors. The stage managers are now heaving a sigh of relief, after an all-party meeting in Thiruvananthapuram in principle agreed to lend cooperation for the success of the meet. However, there are desperate sounds of protest, but with the Left parties agreeing to chip in, the organisers do not see any hurdle in the successful conduct of the meet, at least in the temporal sense.

Several long-cherished and strategic projects in the State are expected to make major breakthrough during the course of the two-day long deliberations. ``What makes GIM stand out is the focus of the event. Thrust will be on project-specific one-to-one negotiations. In fact, we have already opened dialogue with many prospective promoters, who will now come down to the discussion table,'' says a spokesperson of the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC), which is playing the central role in organising the meet. Organisers of the event expect participation of about 200 foreign and NRI delegates, besides around 300 Indian delegates -- from within Kerala and outside.

Delegates are expected from around 20 countries including the U.S., Germany, U.K., UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Korea and Mauritius. Sami Vellu, Minister for Works of the Malaysian Government, will lead a delegation of top businessmen and decision makers from his country. The Minister for Housing, Public Works and Investment of the United Arab Emirates, H.E. Sheikh Rekad bin Salem Al Rekad, will lead the UAE delegation comprising industry leaders and top Government officials. At the behest of the Mauritius Prime Minister, a high-level delegation will be visiting GIM from this African country, which has been moving ahead in the process of economic liberalisation. KSIDC's strategic partners for investment promotion, Messrs Mohamed Salahuddin Consulting Engineering Bureau of Bahrain and Messrs Mustapha Raj SDN BHD of Malaysia, will be mounting special delegations of identified businessmen with whom negotiations are under way for specific projects. Sources also confirm the visits of business delegations from several other countries spread across the globe, including Singapore, Korea, Australia, the U.S. and the Middle East, comprising especially successful NRI businessmen.

Structured as parallel business sessions on different sectors, running concurrently with the one-to-one negotiations, the deliberations of GIM will focus on six core areas for investment, namely infrastructure, information technology, tourism, agriculture & biotechnology, education & healthcare and urban development & real estate. To be presided over by the Minister holding the respective portfolio, a business session will introduce opportunities in the given sector to the delegates, with thrust on specific projects on offer. One-to-one negotiations will immediately follow the business session, simultaneously with pre-bid conferences on specific projects for which the KSIDC has already received Expressions of Interest. ``Match-making has tentatively been done in the case of many projects. We look at the one-to-ones during GIM as a critical milestone for the projects to get going,'' say top executives of the consultancy major, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, who have been sourcing promoters for the projects on behalf of the Government.

GIM marks the high point of an unprecedented drive for investment promotion in Kerala. What makes the crucial difference for GIM is its focus on project-promoter matchmaking, based on a highly organised pre-event campaign. The internationally acclaimed consultancy firm, Messrs. Pricewaterhouse Coopers, who worked out the finer aspects of the projects on offer, has been scouting for promoters through their network spread across the globe. The matchmaking efforts received a shot in the arm as the KSIDC, the principal coordinators of the event, teamed up with well-known consultancy groups in Bahrain and Malaysia to locate partners for the projects. The Government had mounted a multi-pronged publicity campaign involving road-shows, advertisements and face-to-face interactions with identified businessmen from within the country and outside. Expressions of Interest were also invited globally, for many of the strategic projects. As a sequel to these varied initiatives, many business groups have tendered their interest in taking up strategic ventures in the State. And, GIM is looked upon as a launch pad to kick off focused discussions on such projects.

GIM will showcase over 80 projects involving a total capital outlay of around Rs.31,000 million. These include several trend-setting projects like the Access-Controlled Express Highway linking the north and south of Kerala, the Metro SkyBus project at Kochi, Passenger Shipping Services to the Gulf region, an educational park at Palakkad and Eco Townships in the State. The deliberations are expected to bring many of such projects to a take-off stage.

And, the event also signifies the evolution of an unparalleled synergy across boundaries -- the boundaries of various functional arms of the Government.

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