Asserting that the state has a good atmosphere for investments, Kerala Industries Minister P Rajeev on Friday said the state has received investment commitments worth over Rs 3,600 crore in the last six months and the focus is on having ease of doing business in a realistic manner.
As the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan completes six months of its second tenure, Rajeev said the state is getting offers from several big industrial houses, and termed the recent Kitex group controversy as a “planned attempt” to show that Kerala was not investment-friendly.
In an interview with PTI in the national capital, Rajeev, also a former Rajya Sabha member, said the government has been taking various steps to improve the overall business atmosphere in the state.
“More than Rs 3,600 crore investment (commitments) have been offered to Kerala in six months (of the government taking over)… There is also a big growth in establishing MSMEs in the state,” he said.
In the assembly polls held earlier this year, LDF swept to power for the second consecutive term and took charge on May 20.
Rajeev, who held meetings with various Union ministers, including Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, this week has flagged concerns about the process followed for the states and Union Territories in the central government’s ease of doing annual business rankings.
In the rankings released by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) in September 2020, Kerala was placed at the 28th position. The list was topped by Andhra Pradesh, followed by Uttar Pradesh and Telangana at the second and third positions, respectively.
While emphasising that the state is focussed on ease of doing business realistically, the minister said there are serious apprehensions and discontent regarding the ranking criteria, which was “totally subjective”.
To make the point, he said that Lakshadweep was ranked 15th while Kerala was at the 28th spot and that there was no logical reason for the same.
“The rankings have been done on the basis of a survey. When I discussed the issue with Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, he himself admitted that the subjective analysis is not realistic. He himself explained the example of Gujarat where last year it was at the second position and now it is at the tenth position,” he said.
“All these things are based on subjective factors. We have requested the government to have a relook at it,” Rajeev noted.
According to him, the state government has come out with new legislations and made various other improvements as advised by the central government.
Kerala is among the eight states that were allowed to borrow additional funds as they completed the reforms facilitating ease of doing business. “Objectively, our ranking should be in the top eight as only eight states have got the facility to take more loans,” the minister said.
Rajeev also said that he has met around 700 investors personally and discussed about what they expect from the government on creating a realistic ease of doing business atmosphere. “The atmosphere is good in Kerala for investments.”
On the controversy around the Kitex group, which shelved its plan for a Rs 3,500-crore project in Kerala, citing alleged harassment by authorities, the minister said the government had done nothing against it.
“Some inspections were done. One was on the direction of the National Human Rights Commission, the state has no role in it. Two other inspections were done as per the directions of the High Court of Kerala. The state has no role in it. One or two were regarding complaints about COVID protocols. The inspections were done… They have some motives, which we don’t know,” he pointed out.
Making it clear that all the industries should work in accordance with the laws and rules, he also said that if any law or rule is outdated or not practical, the government is open to look into them and ready to repeal such laws and rules after considering all the aspects.
“The positive thing is that no single investor from Kerala has taken a position along with them (Kitex). CII, Ficci and other industrial organisations are with the government of Kerala. We are discussing with them. Some small issues are there… we are trying to resolve all these things,” he said.