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Friday, November 19, 1999

Keshubhai Patel hardsells Gujarat

EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE  
NEW DELHI, NOV 18: A team of Cabinet ministers and top bureaucrats led by Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel have landed in the Capital to hard-sell their Vision 2010 plan. Not just to the country, but to the entire world. Over a dinner meeting at the Taj Mansingh, they are going to address top diplomats from 73 countries. The one-point agenda is to portray Gujarat as the prime investment destination of Asia.

Fourteen delegations from leading countries have already visited the State in the last two months, according to Keshubhai. Though the plan was first launched by Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha in May this year, it did not get the same hype as the one unveiled by Andhra's Chandrababu Naidu. Tarnishing the State's image were the attacks on Christian minorities which were still fresh in people's minds.

To counter this, the government took the bold step of hiring a PR agency, Perfect Relations, to package the entire Vision 2010 in a more attractive manner. Keshubhai's first appearance in Delhi on Thursday and the meeting with diplomats is an obvious fall-out of this. The hard-sell is even more important for the success of the plan as 70 per cent of the Rs 116,993 crore has to come from the private sector.

``The concept of global Gujarat will only materialise with political will, which we have,'' said Keshubhai. The day began for the CM and his entourage with the inauguration of Gujarat Day at the Gujarat pavillion at the India International Trade Fair. Vision 2010 was again the focus of his speech and aptly showcased at the pavillion.

Later in the day was a meeting with the national media in which a slick presentation gave an overview of history, culture and existing infrastructure facilities in the State. After the background came the plan, a need-based futuristic programme in nine sectors of the State's economy. The 383 projects come from sectors like power, ports, industrial parks, roads, gas grid, water, information technology and airports. Surprisingly, the usual pharmaceuticals and cooperatives, the strong points of Gujarat, were conspicuous by their absence. ``We are not here to sell our achievements but what we want to do,'' said Industry Minister Suresh Mehta.

The other important fact that came out was that the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project for water and the first port with private investment Pipavav was important in turning this dream into a reality. ``We are sure that in 10 years, the Sardar Sarovar project will be completed and the port has already been given to a new group Kribhco which will ensure that it will materialise,'' said Patel. Water being a big question mark in Gujarat, other alternatives listed were the Mahi pipeline and experimental desalination plants in the Kutch region as part of the package.

The attacks on Christians, which could be a deterrent for any potential investor, were dismissed as ``small incidents blown out of proportion'' by Home Minister Haren Pandya. ``The crime rate is the lowest in the country and is falling every year by nearly 8 per cent, making it one of the safest places in the country'' he added.

Will the investors feel safe about investing their money in the State? Here comes in the Gujarat Infrastructure Development Act which will essentially govern the principles of private participation and ensure complete transparency of the bidding process to build investor confidence.

Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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