The State Government has announced that it will be hosting a Global Investors’ Meet to attract business into Tamil Nadu. The event is scheduled for January 23 and 24, 2019. Rs. 75 crore have been sanctioned for the conduct of the event. It is seen as an effort by the present administration to change the perception that it is not friendly towards industry. The Government hopes that around 8,000 industrialists will participate in the programme.

All this is to the good. But analyses of the performance of various States in India have consistently shown Tamil Nadu to be dropping on the investment front. These reports are not necessarily always accurate, given that a State like ours, which already has a large industrial base, cannot boast of huge growth rates unlike a State that is just beginning to modernise. But then perceptions do matter, and what with it being considered lacklustre on many fronts, owing to reasons largely beyond its control, the current regime is really making an earnest effort with this Investors’ Meet.

The question, however, remains as to what was achieved in the previous meet, which was held in 2015, at a cost of Rs 100 crore. Planned, repeatedly postponed and, finally, held, replete with last minute work and shoddy execution that pass for event management in Government circles, it also proved to be an occasion for much deification of the then Chief Minister, with even laser images bowing to her from screens. Critics panned the event as a party political show. A laser display on the riverfronts of the city showcased the State’s “heritage”, much of its buildings of the Raj that the administration was doing precious little to protect. The colours of the laser, however, could do nothing to take away the foul smell from the rivers themselves.

At the end of the Investors’ Meet, it was announced that the State had signed MOUs worth a whopping Rs 2 lakh crore with potential investors. Not many were willing to believe these statistics and subsequent happenings have since proved that such misgivings were not out of place. The State Government claims that around Rs 62,000 crore involving 61 companies are in various stages of implementation. But in the absence of a White Paper, which incidentally the Opposition has been repeatedly demanding, it is very difficult to believe any of these claims. One of the largest investments promised, amounting to Rs 10,000 crore, was from a company that has since gone into liquidation. Yet another was a Malaysian entity that evinced interest in Tuticorin. Nothing has been heard from it ever since. In the light of the above, how is anyone to believe what was touted as a great success?

It is also worthwhile pointing out here that the proposed Investors’ Meet will take place at a time when Sterlite Copper’s closure looms like a shadow over the entire industrial scenario in the State. We are not going into the merits or demerits of the plant and the matter is anyway sub judice. But what cannot be forgotten is that several lives were lost owing chiefly to administrative bungling. Such loss of human life over industrial matters puts our State back to the 1970s when similar happenings were par for the course. It is also a widely held opinion among industrial circles that the sudden closure of the plant was a political decision. This is not something that can boost investor confidence.

At a time when neighbouring States, such as Andhra and Telangana, are doing their best to wean investors away from our State, the party in power may be better off trying to create a good industrial atmosphere in Tamil Nadu before setting off on jamborees of this kind.