PM Inaugurates Conference on Kerala Development – Vision 2025
The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh inaugurated the Conference on Kerala Development – Vision 2025 in Thiruvananthapuram today. Following is the text of the Prime Minister’s speech on the occasion:
“I am very pleased to participate in this conference on issues related to Kerala’s development. I compliment its organizers for this initiative. On a personal note, Kerala holds a special place in my heart and a visit to your beautiful state is always a joyful experience. So is the case with this visit also.
Kerala is unique in so many ways. God’s own country is a paradise for tourists attracting a very large number of them every year from all over the world. The richness of its natural beauty, its culture and its cuisine are extraordinarily dazzling. There is so much in the state which all Keralites, and indeed all Indians can be proud of. This uniqueness of Kerala, the quality that makes it out of the ordinary, holds in the state’s development experience too. The development course that Kerala has taken in the last many years has received considerable attention among academics and policy practitioners both nationally and internationally. The social and human indicators of the state have been much above the national averages for decades. In fact economists have often pointed out that some of these indicators are as good as certain European countries. Today Kerala has the lowest incidence of poverty among the major states in the country. Close to half the population between 15 and 49 years of age complete at least ten years of schooling in Kerala, compared to 29% in India as a whole. The socio-economic condition of women in Kerala deserves special mention. Girls in your state have a better record than boys in school education. They excel in sports. They outnumber boys in enrolment in higher education. That Kerala’s society treats women well is evident in the fact that the average life expectancy of women is higher than men by four years. I commend the society and people of Kerala for all these very special achievements. The state has set standards and benchmarks in many areas of development for other states to follow.
A large number of Keralites are employed outside India, especially in the gulf countries. More than two million people from this state who are working outside are a great source of strength to the state’s economy. It is estimated that remittances from them contribute between one-fifth and one-fourth of Kerala’s income. These remittances have contributed handsomely in making Kerala the number one state in per capita consumption for the last many years.
The UPA government at the centre has sanctioned several projects for the economic, social and educational development in the last six years or so. In the field of higher education we have made crucial investments. A new Central University has been set up in Kasargod. Two premier institutions, viz., Indian Institute of Science Education and Research and Indian Institute of Space Technology have been set up in Thiruvananthapuram. A centre of the Aligarh Muslim University is being set up in Mallapuram.
Today I have inaugurated the country’s first International Container Transshipment terminal at Kochi. This will not only give a boost to the country’s import export trade but will also significantly contribute to the economic development of Kerala. Tomorrow I will inaugurate the International Terminal building at the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport. In the field of Defence several projects have been taken up. The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited is setting up a new strategic electronic plant in Kasargod. The National Institute for Research & Development in Defence Shipbuilding has been established near Kozhikode. The Bharat Earth Movers Limited has set up a new unit for manufacture of products for Defence, Railways and Metro. The investment in this project is of Rs. 260 crores. The Bharat Electronics Limited is setting up a product support centre at KINFRA Hi-Tech Park in Cochin. The Brahmos Aerospace Thiruvananthapuram Limited was commissioned in December, 2007. This is an exclusive aerospace laboratory formed by the experts of ISRO and DRDO. The Indian Naval Academy at Ezhimala, inaugurated by me in 2009, is a world class educational and training facility for the Navy. In the field of Agriculture a special package has been sanctioned for the development of Kuttanad Wetland Ecosystem with a plan outlay of around Rs 1800 crore. Under the JNNURM an allocation of Rs 475 crores has been earmarked for Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi. A rail coach factory has been announced in Palakkad district.
The UPA Government is committed to helping the State to realise its full development potential. However, the state must do more to improve its image as an investment friendly place. Entrepreneurs and Investors should see Kerala as an attractive destination. The area of labour relations in factories and enterprises all across Kerala is something we need to take a close look at. Investors should not feel discouraged because of the state of the labour environment. In fact wages for the workforce would automatically go up if it moves to high end jobs after acquiring the requisite skills. This brings me to the need for skill development among the youth of Kerala. The Central Government has launched a skill development programme and constituted a National Skill Development Corporation with the aim of imparting skills to 500 million people by the year 2020. I would urge the government of Kerala and industry to find ways and means of deriving the maximum possible benefit from these initiatives so that a large number of the youth of Kerala can be more gainfully and productively employed.
There is a lot which needs to be done to improve Kerala’s physical infrastructure. For example, while the density of roads in the State is much higher than the national average, their quality leaves much to be desired. There are contentious issues which need to be resolved before the task of improving and expanding the road infrastructure can be undertaken in full measure. Electric power is another area where much more needs to be done. Kerala must improve its performance both in power generation and distribution if it wants to create an environment truly conducive for industrialization.
In agriculture, Kerala has a predominance of cash crops. The area under food crops has been pushed down. Therefore it is especially important that there are improvements in agricultural productivity. There should be better land and water management. Greater attention needs to be paid for the implementation of medium and major irrigation projects. Here I would also point out that Kerala has not derived as much benefit from the Centrally Sponsored Schemes as it could have and should have. The Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission is an example. The state government needs to show more interest and sincerity for implementation of the Centrally Sponsored Schemes.
Kerala also must be prepared to address certain demographic challenges. The longevity in Kerala is high and the birth rate is low. This brings us to the problem of providing old-age security. The high dependence on foreign remittances which are extremely vulnerable to international economic developments creates its own problems. As a result, domestic consumption could be severely impacted. Similarly the retirement age of 55 years in the Government renders people jobless relatively early. The ability of the State to provide old-age security is limited by the hard budget constraints. Further, it would not be possible for the old to migrate to other parts of the country for new opportunities. It is in this context that Kerala must face up to these challenges by accelerating the pace of economic reforms and creating an enabling environment for private investment to create new employment generating opportunities within the State. The State government needs to do much more in these areas.
I have no doubt that Kerala can overcome the challenges it faces and progress even faster than before. I hope that as in the past, the state will continue setting an example for other States in various dimensions of development. I wish Kerala and its wonderful people all the very best for the future.”