Leading industry body ASSOCHAM has proposed 30-point growth strategy to the new Government of Punjab with a view to give thrust to the small scale enterprises (SMEs) and food processing sector and achieve double digit growth in the decade.
The ASSOCHAM delegation comprising Ravi Wig, Chairman, ASSOCHAM Punjab Development Council, Ashok Khanna, Chairman, ASSOCHAM National Council on Environment & Safety and TQM and D.S. Rawat, Secretary General, ASSOCHAM met Prakash Singh Badal on Tuesday and have suggested setting up of industiral clusters in Punjab for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) involved in food processing, handicrafts, renewable energy and information technology to generate three lakh direct and indirect jobs over the next three years and help inclusive growth.
The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) to assist in establishing clusters of small and medium enterprises in two districts of potential states across the country.
The strategy paper on all-round Punjab development is a ready-reckoner for investors, the Centre and state governments to make it as one of the most attractive investment destinations in India with double digit SGDP growth, said Wig. The chamber has also set up a dedicated Foundation for Development of Micro Industries and Clusterisation to promote micro, small and medium enterprises.
They said Punjab should rejuvenate agriculture, create manufacturing hubs and accelerate growth in services sector to emerge as land of opportunities. The agenda of new state government should be to prioritise building social and physical infrastructure and define role of all stakeholders and cover short-term and long-term goals to ensure speedy development.
The state may not have enough finances to develop infrastructure on its own which builds a good case for public private partnership (PPP) type of initiatives involving multilateral institutions like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. “The challenge before state government is to address the issue from a holistic perspective keeping in balance between agriculture and industry,” said Rawat.
To encourage effective distribution of agro-commodities, initiatives should be taken to create hub-and-spoke model under which districts and towns identified act as a hub and villages surrounding them act as spokes. This will ensure efficient distribution, reduce transportation costs, increase competition and real price discovery, benefiting the farmers.
Farmers need technology upgradation, logistic support, market intelligence and should be able to compete in international markets. The industry looks forward to stable, transparent and responsive state government so that more investments can pour in, he said.
“We would also like the state government to promote irrigation, rural connectivity, health, education and non-farm rural activities. With rich natural resources and traditional industries, however, the state holds enormous unrealised growth potential,” said Khanna.
At the same time, industries clusters can be created for micro, small and medium enterprises to ensure common facilities, thus reducing operating costs and increasing competitiveness and skill development around that sector.
The state government must facilitate contract farming by attracting investments from the private sector. Irrigation systems can be improved by employing modern technologies which are a must to boost productivity.
Special economic zones (SEZs) can be created with organic farms for herbal and medicinal plantation. A definite roadmap needs to be drafted to improve storage facilities, transport infrastructure and marketing network so that food processing industries can develop value-added products for domestic and foreign markets.
Industry-specific SEZs for information technology, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, textiles, gems and jewellery besides manufacturing of sports goods also hold potential for growth and employment generation, said ASSOCHAM.
State-level development finance institutes like erstwhile industrial development corporations should be revived to support long-term financial needs of small and medium enterprises. Developing strategic business services like IT, IT-enabled services, finance and insurance can be catalysts of growth and enhance the share of services in gross state domestic product (GSDP).
The private sector can contribute by promoting such projects to provide industry-relevant skills to rural youth. ASSOCHAM also called for creating an enabling policy framework to rejuvenate economic activity in the state.
The state government should spell out a clear land acquisition policy with sufficient room for buyers and sellers to negotiate directly with minimal government role for attracting fresh investments from the private sector.