Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Kerala team to visit Dubai Internet City by mid-Sept

The Smart City proposal has moved one notch up with Kerala accepting an invitation from Technology and Media Free Zone Authority (TECOM) to send a team of officials to Dubai Internet City for further talks on the project.

Sources said the Chief Minister’s office has accepted the invitation and a team, led by Information Technology Secretary Tensing, will visit Dubai around mid-September.
The Chief Minister’s Principal Secretary Sheela Thomas, who received the communication from the DIC (property and partnership relations) Senior Manager Baju George, is likely to be on the team.

Both Sheela Thomas and Tensing had led the talks with DIC officials when they visited Thiruvananthapuram after the new Left ministry assumed office on May 18. Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan is yet to finalise the rest of the team, which might include his additional secretary K Suresh Kumar and an IT expert.

The invite says September 12 to 14 is convenient for the TECOM but the festive mood in Kerala has perhaps delayed a quick visit. The invitation is in direct response to Kerala government’s revised draft agreement which was sent to TECOM a fortnight ago. The previous government, led by chief minister Oommen Chandy, had approved the final agreement but state assembly elections forced him to leave it to the new ministry.

Smart City has been conceived as a self-contained township for knowledge-based industries such as IT, ITES and biotechnology, forming a network of such cities TECOM is setting up as part of it going global strategy. Achuthanandan, while in the Opposition, had opposed the handing over the Infopark at the cost of Rs1.09bn ($22.83m), 136 acres at Rs2.64m ($602,189) an acre and another 100 acre on a 99-year lease as job-creation incentive under the IT policy.
While Chandy was for a joint venture with DIC, leasing Infopark and another 100 acres for creating 33,000 IT jobs, the latest draft incorporates fresh provisions that treat the Dubai company as any other infrastructure developer in the IT sector and requiring it to take land on lease at market rates.

The government would hand over on a 30-year lease 377 acres at market rates and would have the option to evict the lessee if it fails to create 90,000 jobs over a 10-year period, according to the new draft.

Deepak Padmanabhan, DIC business development officer, had said after talks with Achuthanandan last month that the new Kerala proposal was altogether a new business model, which he would present before the TECOM board for approval.


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