Last month saw the release of a high profile document by the Government, charting out what its vision is for the State, 11 years from now. Vision 2023 has been lauded by industry and trade representatives from overseas. Some countries have expressed their desire to invest in the State on this basis. The document, as an expression of intent, is definitely a commendable one in that it lists out all the desirable objectives that need to be met to make the State of Tamil Nadu an ideal destination and a place to be in. Much of course depends on how this vision will pan out on the ground. Its true success will lie in its implementation.
Is the bureaucracy really geared up to achieve these goals? We just need to look around us to see that in the past decades, the State’s infrastructure for instance, has grown despite the absence of and not because of any great plan or vision. This is evident especially in Chennai city and several other towns, all of which share the same problems – rampant exploitation of land, an infrastructure that cannot keep pace, lack of civic amenities and a plummeting quality of life. These are not indicators of planning with foresight. It is well known that several private initiatives have however, managed to succeed within the constraints. And therefore, can the implementation of Vision 2023 become a public-private partnership? This is after all in keeping with the National Public Private Partnership Policy that the Central Government has recognised as the best way for infrastructural development.
Where is the funding for this mammoth exercise going to come from? In the absence of cash-flows and statistics, it is to be assumed that the Vision will need to be funded by a mix of State, Central, borrowed and private sector funds. With our State’s record of a complete turnaround in policies each time there is a change in Government, how many private sources will be willing to invest? And also most of these infrastructural projects are long-term when it comes to gestation. Will sources with funds be willing to wait that long and for a period during which there will be at least two elections to the Legislative Assembly? It is therefore important that the Vision is adopted by all political parties. And this should not be difficult for none can fault the intent of the document. But the exercise has to be completed before work begins if investor confidence is to be bettered.
Somewhere along the line, the Vision also genuflects briefly at the altars of ecology and heritage. If the State Government is taking this document seriously it would do well to pay more than lip-service to these two areas. The world over, ecology is an important concern. And the United States, which is striving to shore up its battered economy is looking to green initiatives as revenue and employment generators. Our city for instance, could do with some imaginative solutions as regards its waste problems and also the condition of its waterbodies. In the latter area, the last great initiative was the rain-water harvesting scheme that was implemented by the same regime in its previous stint at power. Can we hope for more?
As regards heritage, all world-class destinations for business and investment recognise it to be vital ingredient in a winning mix. Not so in our State where anything of heritage significance is considered to be an impediment to modernisation and progress. That is a 1960s socialist mentality that the Government will do well to come out of in keeping with the latest trend. And it would do well to include the protection and proper presentation of heritage in its action plan.