By – Kiran Mazumdar- Shaw, President, B.PAC
Karnataka’s business-friendly policies for knowledge-based industries such as information technology and biotechnology have won it the epithets of ‘IT Capital’, ‘BT Capital’ and ‘Startup Capital’.
The leadership assumed by the state is not an accident. It is the result of a decade long strong collaboration between government, industry and academia as well as deep involvement of our very committed bureaucracy. This has happened over successive BJP, JDS and Congress governments.
Today, Karnataka contributes over 12% of India’s exports and it is also the highest software exporting state accounting for 37% of the over US$100 billion IT exports.
At 10%, Karnataka is the third-highest contributor to India’s GDP and has the fastest growing gross domestic state product (GDSP) largely led by the services sector accounting for two-thirds of its economic output. At constant prices (2011-12), GDSP grew 8.5% to
Rs 9,49,111 Crore in fiscal 2017-18.
Karnataka has successfully created about 14 lakh jobs in the last four years, which is ahead of several other states. The per capita income at Rs 1.75 lakhs in 2017-18, is 56% higher than the all-India average of Rs 1.12 lakhs. This indicates the economic robustness of Karnataka.
For preparing the state to benefit from future business opportunities, the current Karnataka government has taken several key measures. To create a globally competitive startup ecosystem, a multi-sector startup policy was unveiled in 2015. The government has proposed to set up an incubation center as well as a Karnataka Innovation Authority to promote startups. A ‘Legal Framework for Innovation’ has been envisaged to bring new and emerging technologies under a legal framework. The IT, BT and S&T department has been allocated Rs 247 crores in the latest state Budget.
An Electric Vehicles and Energy Storage Policy was unveiled in 2017, which will make Karnataka the leading destination for electric vehicles manufacturing in India. An ambitious target of generating 6,000 MW of solar power by March 2021 has also been set.
Proactive government policies have ensured Karnataka ranks among the Top 10 states in terms of ‘ease of doing business’. These measures have also made the state the fourth largest recipient of FDI between 2000 and 2016.
The outcome of the upcoming Karnataka state elections will be crucial as the incoming government will need to ensure that the state does not lose it economic growth momentum. It will need to come good on the promise of making Karnataka the most attractive investment destination and top job creator in the country. Hence, the continuity of policies is imperative, irrespective of who comes to power following the state elections.
Bengaluru Needs To Be Given Its Due
Importantly, Bengaluru has to be returned to its pride of place in the list of India’s best cities. Despite contributing to about 60% of Karnataka’s economic output, Bengaluru has largely been ignored by political parties over the years because it did not have sufficient electoral representation. Bengaluru accounts for only 28 out of Karnataka’s 224 assembly seats. While Bengaluru’s economy grew rapidly, its infrastructure failed to keep pace as evidenced by bad roads, lack of water & power, unruly traffic and poor solid waste management.
Initiatives by citizens, who have come together to fight for better governance of the city, have been successful in getting the government to act. The state Budget 2018-19 allocated over Rs 4,000 crore to upgrade the city’s infrastructure in terms of Tender SURE roads, better road connectivity, improved drainage, lake revival etc. It also proposed Phase III of the metro rail project, which will take the total length to over 260 km.
An amount of Rs 5,371 crores was allocated for the welfare of women and children, while Rs 6,645 crores were earmarked for health and family welfare. If implemented these measures can ensure the safety of women and children, as well as, ensure their right to healthcare. The funds set aside for improving Bengaluru’s infrastructure need to be spent effectively to ensure the city’s liveability index improves.
Continue the Good Work
In the aftermath of the State Assembly elections, it should not be a case of ‘one step forward, two steps back.’
If the incumbent government comes to power it will have to walk the talk and prove that it was not paying lip service to development through an “electioneering” Budget earlier this year.
If there is a change in government, the new political dispensation should not give into the temptation of rolling back policies of the previous government when there is evidence that these are delivering.
In the final analysis, we need a more enlightened and development-oriented political agenda that rises above petty one-upmanship and instead focuses on putting the state on the path to robust, inclusive and equitable growth.
This article originally appeared in Live Mint on May 10 2018.