The State Government appears serious at long last about conducting its Global Investors’ Meet. After two postponements last year, now scheduled for May 23rd and 25th this year, the plan is to garner Rs. 1000 crore in investments within these two days. This may seem ambitious, but in a vastly urbanised and industrialised State this can be achieved provided the planning for the event is right. There are, however, many rumblings at ground level that indicate the usual slap-dash, and last minute efforts are the order of the day. The question is: Are global investors not going to see through it all?
Take for instance the question of city beautification. Can this be done in a matter of two months? And yet that is what the Corporation hopes to achieve. You would have noticed a sudden proliferation of bollards along footpaths and medians. On the anvil are road-sweeping machines and a wall art initiative. The former, incidentally, are to be used only along specific roads – those on which the delegates to the investors’ meet will be driving to and from their places of stay. What of the rest of the city? Well, that is not going to be seen by these visitors from overseas, so why bother?
The wall art initiative, good though it is in intention and deserving of encouragement, can never be a success unless we educate our political class, the cinema world and the Tamil Nadu printing industry that wall spaces are not meant for posters. These are the worst offenders, apart from petty advertisers hawking quack cures. Taking a cue from these role models, the average man on the street has also begun putting up posters, commemorating anything and everything from births and deaths and thereafter to first, second, third and nth anniversaries. Can wall art really make an impact in a city whose populace is so insensitive to it? Let us also not forget that Corporation Councillors, past and present, are themselves not above putting up posters and covering walls with political graffiti. The recent arrest of an octogenarian activist who tried to remove banners and posters shows where the sympathies of the administration truly lie.
The powers that be need to realise that, unlike in the past, the world is extremely connected today. With the social media being what it is, no city is really an unknown entity to a newcomer. The investors who come in are likely to be almost thoroughly clued about the real conditions in Chennai. Considering that the Investors’ Meet was originally scheduled for 2013, we have had ample time since then to plan a proper event, with the necessary infrastructure in place for it. But we have gone about it in an all too familiar fashion – bringing about cosmetic changes when our core remains as weak as ever. After all, a Dubai that began working in 2014 to prepare itself for its Global Expo 2020 cannot be very wrong, can it?
There are a couple of other aspects of the Investors’ Meet that merit introspection. Firstly, is May really the best time of the year to present our city? Or is it driven by the logic that once you showcase the city at its worst, everything else will appear better anyway? Secondly, the local industrial houses seem to be completely unaware of the event. A casual survey reveals that Chambers of Commerce have not even been involved. Would not a potential investor want to engage with those already present here to assess risks and opportunities? Lastly, given that land prices in Chennai have made investment in large industries completely unviable unless the Government subsidises the purchase, would it not have been better to have showcased a Tier II city such as Coimbatore?