'State should evolve its own development strategy'

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM OCT. 5. The vice-president of the World Bank, Vinod Thomas, has said that, in conditions specific to Kerala, only a carefully devised reform strategy would succeed.

``Different people tend to interpret the term reform in different ways. First, it has to be understood that the term basically means `change for the better'. The World Bank has learnt several lessons from its experience (with helping reforms in countries) in the past,'' he said.

He said the same formula for reform might not succeed in all places. The conditions specific to a place would be a major factor in deciding the strategy. For reform to succeed, it should basically have a `human face'.

For Kerala, the ideal choice would be to resort to a two-fold strategy involving `selective globalisation and phased liberalisation'. Reform measures that had the downside risk of employment destruction should be avoided as far as possible, he said.

Dr. Thomas added that no reform could be entirely painless. A sound mechanism to provide a social safety net for the affected sections should complement the reform initiatives, he said.

For Kerala, he suggested focusing attention on throwing open sectors such as Information Technology, eco-tourism and higher education. These sectors carried immense potential being developed in the State (with least political and social resistance).

Such initiatives would not displace labour. They would also lend a cutting edge for further growth in the State. The momentum created by them would make it easier to introduce healthy reforms in other sectors too.

He said China and Taiwan offered a `huge experience' on how this selective approach could bring big dividends. These countries had been discriminate in deciding what reform measures they should adopt.

Dr. Thomas said he was confident that Kerala could turn the corner and forge ahead if all its energies were streamlined in the right direction. "You should not expect the Government to do everything. The State's turnaround depends on a collaborative effort from the Government, society at large, multinational organisations and investors from within and outside the State,'' he said.

Referring to the functioning of the Government, he said there should be a mechanism to give better focus to development efforts. The different departments should not function as watertight compartments. There should be a mechanism to monitor the progress of reform initiatives on a daily basis and clear the bottlenecks.

Dr. Thomas said the State had immense bankable resources for development, which, unfortunately, were not getting channelised for development. For instance, the State was receiving huge amounts of deposits from its people working abroad. These bankable resources had to be matched with good projects.

He said the policy-makers should apply their minds on how this could be achieved. It was basically a question of offering sound options for investments. The Government should consider the possibility of channelising the big deposits available within the State for development programmes through the agency of an appropriate financial instrument.

He said what the world might witness in the coming days would be the second stage of `Kerala Model of Development'.

The Industries Minister, P. K. Kunhalikutty, also participated in the interaction with Dr. Thomas, arranged by the Sustainable Development Council, here on Friday.

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