Kerala government is being offered free strategic planning by a global consulting firm.
Rebuilding the state is a formidable challenge and therefore an opportunity, too, to do some right things for a different and a more sustainable Kerala. Cyclones, flooding and similar calamities are increasing the world over. We should expect these to come again and again, but should prepare to survive fairly unaffected using appropriate policies, regulations, technologies and disaster management.
We are now in troubled waters, in its literal sense! As the darkness of the sky fades away allowing streaks of sunshine to fall on our shoulders, as water recedes and as hopes to rebuild kindle in every Keralite’s mind, we have new clouds looming above our heads?—?the clouds of politics, policies and procedures. No amount of money is sufficient to rebuild Kerala!
Kerala government is being offered free strategic planning by a global consulting firm. Free or paid, the success of any such holistic project substantially depends on the vision of our (the client) leadership and how the client is organised in terms of having a knowledgeable and coherent project team that closely follows, analyses and comments on the study.
This needs real expertise on the client side too; not some jargon-level knowledge. The advantage of having a consultant is getting an unbiased opinion. However, there is no guarantee that you will get the best brains and minds (equally important), with the capability of some original thinking, creativity and innovation to do the actual work on the ground and offer that paradigm shift, if needed, even from the top consulting houses.
The same is the case with any UN institutions that provide similar services. To my knowledge, many in the wide varying UN institutions are like bureaucrats who will get the actual work done by hiring external consultants?—?mostly individual experts. Some wonder solution emerging out of such studies is somewhat unrealistic unless you clearly know the track record of the people who will actually do the work.
Kerala needs a comprehensive economic development and spatial plan for the next 20 years that clearly identifies what can and cannot be done and where.
Rebuilding the state is a formidable challenge and therefore an opportunity, too, to do some right things for a different and a more sustainable Kerala. Cyclones, flooding and similar calamities are increasing the world over. We should expect these to come again and again, but should prepare to survive fairly unaffected using appropriate policies, regulations, technologies and disaster management. This shall be the underlying principle; there shall be short-term (quick result) objectives and long-term strategic vision.
No amount of funding sources will be sufficient to rebuild Kerala soon, especially when the current system in the country is stifling some major cash inflows. Some autonomous institutions/NGOs may be authorised to seek support through reputed crowd funding platforms.
Create an institutional mechanism that can source funds from all over the world, more so from the Indian diaspora, for specific projects and special purpose vehicles of rebuilding on a long-term basis –without or with equity participation as in the case of the Cochin International Airport, soft loans and development loans.
Public-private-partnership should be the primary model in rebuilding. The audit systems in the country and the media should understand the need for this model and cooperate with the government without hampering projects with silly and erratic findings. If needed, the state should get special permissions with regard to tendering procedures as part of the current rapid rebuilding process.
Do not get disturbed or carried away by the environmental saviours and their prophecies. We have a definite development problem on hand that needs extraordinary expertise, experiential knowledge and visioning capacity. We need to engage a team of top-class development planners now to work on our short-term and long-term development needs and do a vision and a plan for at least the next 20 years!
The State should aggressively promote economic activities and mobility plans that do not overload the scarce land but maximise the utilisation of its water bodies. It has all the potential to nurture purely knowledge based businesses (KBBs) and therefore put all its efforts to become a world class educational hub, healthcare hub, tourism destination and hub for IT, R&D and other KBBs (without making the mistake of Bangalore)
Rejuvenate and modernize some of the State’s traditional sectors such as the fisheries, handloom and handicrafts for a global market. None of the above is possible without an enabling environment and comprehensive support systems.
Integrated transport modelling and management: The state needs to reduce the pressure on its scarce land and exploit the lengthy coastline and the inland water connectivity. Unlike the other states, it needs to rejuvenate her waterways and introduce new and reliable water transport (sea and inland water)?—?cargo and passenger- through public-private-participation (PPP), but with stringent regulatory framework (as in the aviation industry). This will supplement and reduce the pressure on land and other modes.
A multi-mode integrated (water-land-rail) transport network would be ideal, wherein an optimal combination of these would reduce the overburdening of any single mode such as roads, for instance.
Policy initiatives to reduce household vehicles and simultaneously strengthening multimode mass/public transport systems will go a long way in reducing the load on transport infrastructure, needless to mention about its environmental and safety advantages.
Excellence in Education Mission: Convert at least 5 state-owned educational institutions into world-class institutions within the next five years?—?world class standards, both in academics and social/living infrastructure. Offer incentives to the private sector to enhance standards and to appear in popular university global rankings.
The state could have its own accreditation procedure for providing incentives. The foregoing should spur a new approach in the higher education system in Kerala whereby it becomes a globally attractive destination for higher learning in less than a decade.
Health-4-All Mission: Immediate steps to maintain and constantly improve the Physical Quality of Life or liveability and social security Holistic and integrated waste management: Policies that deter generation (charge waste disposal into municipal systems), new integrated technologies, micro-management of waste at household level, promoting waste-to-energy and so on.
Mosquito and other vector control and major and micro clean drinking water programmes are a priority. Strengthening law and order: Good and reliable welfare measures will enhance the morale of the police force and make them less corrupt.
Excellence in profession mission: There is an immediate need for nurturing a cadre of high calibre professionals and scientists in institutions that manage power, water, health and other infrastructure facilities. These professionals should see a clear but competitive career path in front of them and finally head these institutions rather than being subdued and subordinated by generalists who come from the administrative system.
(The author is a development strategist and digital entrepreneur)