Three vital meetings to be held in January will impact the project’s fate

New Year may decide the fate of the much delayed SmartCity Kochi project.

Three vital meetings will be held in January, and the outcome will have a major impact on the project.

A meeting of the board of directors of SmartCity Kochi will be held within the first two weeks of January. It will be the first meeting to be held in Dubai at the request of the project promoters to facilitate the attendance of important officials of the Dubai government and Dubai Holding. The initial dates suggested by SmartCity authorities clashed with the three-day Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebrations in Kochi between January 7 and 9.

Another crucial meeting is that of the Union Commerce Ministry’s Board of Approval (BoA) of Special Economic Zones on January 18. A final decision on SmartCity Kochi’s demand to notify the entire project area of 246 acres as a single SEZ is likely on that day. While 132 acres of land has been notified as SEZ, the rest is yet to be notified.

The Union Revenue Department has been reluctant to give in to the demand citing a water body that splits the project site despite the Union Commerce Ministry hardly having any reservations. Following the reluctance of the revenue department, the Additional Director General of Export Promotion visited the project site and submitted a report.

While the last meeting of the BoA was to take up the matter, it was removed from the agenda in the last minute citing the need for a detailed discussion.

SmartCity Kochi sources said very recently a project in Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh was accorded a single SEZ status despite the site being separated by a creek. The State government has brought this to the notice of the Union government.

The Dubai-based promoters of the project has kept the finalization of the master plan and the launch of first phase construction pending on the ground that it can be done only after it becomes clear whether the project will be notified as a single SEZ or multiple SEZ. This has led to a difference of opinion with the State government, which wanted the promoters to launch the first phase construction on the area already notified as SEZ without wasting any more time.

By now it has become more than clear that the first phase will not be completed within 18-24 months as announced at the time of the inauguration of the pavilion of the project in June this year.

A meeting of Dubai Holding will also be significant for the project following reports that it will takeover SmartCity Kochi project from Tecom Investments, one of its subsidiaries. Sources, however, denied it stating that Tecom Investments will maintain the ownership of installations at SmartCity Kochi and that what is on the anvil is a mere shuffling of positions of people holding charge.

As such Abdullatif Al Mulla will move out as the Group CEO of Tecom Investments and will assume a more important position as the Director of Business Development at Dubai Holding from the start of the next year. Sources said SmartCity Kochi will continue to be under his supervision.

Dubai Holding was set up in October 2004 to consolidate the various large-scale infrastructure and investment projects in Dubai and to identify opportunities to develop future major projects that will benefit the UAE and the region. Tecom Investments is one of the seven member companies of Dubai Holding.

It was Tecom Investments that has conceptualized SmartCity, a venture that aims to develop knowledge industry townships worldwide.

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