Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister of eastern India’s mineral-rich state of Odisha, will hold an investors’ meet in Dubai on Wednesday. The event is jointly organised by the Odisha government and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI).

Patnaik, 75, who has been the CM of Odisha since 2000, is on a 13-day tour of Italy and the UAE, to seek foreign investments.

He wants to showcase the tremendous investment opportunities available in Odisha to the business leaders in the UAE in sectors such as mining, metallurgy and metals, ancillary and downstream in metals, petroleum, petrochemicals and chemicals, agriculture, food and sea food processing, textiles and technical textiles, apparels and garments, port, airports, logistics and warehousing and renewable energy.

Odisha chief secretary Suresh Mohapatra; CM’s secretary VK Pandian; food and civil supplies secretary VV Yadav; industries secretary Hemant Sharma; and Resident Commissioner in New Delhi Ravi Kant are accompanying the CM on this trip.

Patnaik spoke with Khaleej Times ahead of the investors’ meet.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

How has life come full circle from author, socialite to a politician?

I’m extremely fortunate to have received so much love and adoration from 46 million Odias. I was born into a family of patriots and nationalists. My father was a freedom fighter and a natural leader. Being around him was an education for me in politics and in life.

In my youth, I was interested in understanding my surroundings, nature and people in a developing nation. My father was extremely passionate to serve his motherland and its people. It was from him that I inherited a sense of duty towards the people of Odisha. After he passed away in 1997, I felt that it was my duty to further his legacy and continue his work for the people. I joined politics with the sole aim of working for 46 million Odias and being able to bring smiles onto their faces and that has been my mission till date.

What’s the secret behind this prolonged tenure as the CM of Odisha?

It’s the immense love and affection of the people of Odisha and their faith in our government’s work that I have been able to serve them for so long. It is the people of Odisha who have guided me on how to perform my duties to the best of my abilities over the last two decades. My government’s philosophy has been simple, “prosperity of Odisha and Odia people”. It is this guiding principle that defines all my government’s policies and activities.

I have always believed that a CM and his government’s work should speak louder than their words. I think that it is because of my government’s work and sincere dedication towards the people of Odisha that they have voted for us again and again over the last two decades. “If you love people, you do not see the post you hold as merely a post, but to serve the people. You do not see power merely as a power, but to transform the lives of people”.

How has Odisha transformed under your reign?

Two decades ago, when my government took charge of the affairs of Odisha, it was still recovering from the disastrous consequences of the Super Cyclone in 1999. It was in an hour of immense need that the people of Odisha had shown faith in me, to pull back the state from the abyss. Through the resilience of Odia people and the persistent efforts of our government, today, Odisha is a role model for the world in disaster preparedness. From a rice-deficit state, Odisha is today the fourth largest contributor to the country’s public distribution system (PDS).

My government has adopted the 5T model of governance, that is, transparency, technology, teamwork, and time leading to transformation, which has led to holistic development of the state and significant improvement in the lives of people of Odisha. Over these 22 years, Odisha’s economy has grown 10-fold from $5.87 billion to over $63.85 billion. From an agri-centric economy, Odisha has emerged as major industry-driven economy and has been consistently registering double-digit growth rates, outperforming even the most developed of states in India.

Odisha has shown remarkable progress in all socio-economic indicators from agricultural productivity and industrial output to education, health, affordable housing, irrigation, roads, electricity, water and sanitation, women empowerment amongst others. While a lot has been done in the last two-decades, a lot is still left to be done. Our goal is to consistently improve the lives of Odia people, empower them and transform Odisha into one of the most developed modern regions in the world.

What are your top priorities for Odisha in the next two years?

We are consistently striving to improve the lives of the people of Odisha. The top priority for my government in the next two years is to ensure completion of the projects we have undertaken across all sectors.

From an industry perspective, we are looking to further broad base the industrial ecosystem in the state. We have received investment intentions of over $50 billion in the last couple of years. The aim is to ensure grounding of all the projects. We are also targeting new age sectors like automobile and components, green energy equipment, large scale electronics, telecommunication equipment, textile & apparel, pharmaceuticals & bulk drugs, white goods and components, capital goods and aerospace and defence. These are employment intensive sectors and will help create an ecosystem of inclusive development.

We are also paying special attention to skilling our young workforce. Recently, we have started the World Skills Centre in Bhubaneswar in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank and the Institute of Technical Education Services (ITEES), Singapore. The goal is to develop a highly skilled workforce for industry 4.0. In the sectors of social development, we are working to ensure affordable housing, drinking water, and modern sanitation facility for all. In the health sector, BSKY is a unique health assurance model covering over nine million families.

We are developing citizen-services centres across the state where we are leveraging the power of technology to deliver government-to-citizen services online by eliminating physical touch points. The aim is citizen centric, transformative governance leading to empowerment and progress.

What brings you to the UAE?

This is an official visit for me. I am in the UAE with my team of senior government officials looking forward to meeting representatives of leading companies and industry associations of this region and showcasing to them the vast existing and emerging investment opportunities in the state. I’m also here to meet my Odia brothers and sisters living and working in the UAE. I have come here to meet them and assure them that while they perform their professional duties in the UAE, their families and friends back home are being taken care of by the Government of Odisha.

My government is keen to forge strong socio-economic ties with the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region with a view to develop long-term mutually beneficial relationships. I believe both Odisha and the UAE have a lot in common while at the same time offer complementary value propositions for people of both the regions. We share the same contours of being endowed with plenty of natural resources. Like petroleum and hydrocarbons have been the main stay of the UAE, metals and minerals have been the main stay of Odisha. We present each other with immense opportunities of growth. I’m here to learn about and share these mutual opportunities.

How is the ease of doing business in Odisha compared to other Indian states?

My government has been proactively working towards developing an efficient industrial ecosystem and business-friendly environment. We have been continuously working on improving the policies, systems, and facilitation mechanisms leveraging technology for delivery of government-to-business (G2B) services. We are also working on reducing/ minimising regulatory compliances for businesses. Since 2020, we have been successful in minimising regulatory burden for over 1,700 compliances.

We are one of the first states in the country to implement business reforms at the district level to ensure that changes implemented at the state level are percolated down and implemented at ground level also. We have set up dedicated teams at the district level to handhold and support entrepreneurs for quick resolution of issues. This has led to a significant decrease in time for the resolution of issues. Odisha is also one of the first states to integrate the state’s single window system (GOSWIFT) with the National Single Window System (NSWS) of the India government.

Our state single-window is one of the best in the country and has won the silver prize in the national e-governance awards in 2020 for government process reengineering. Our industrial investment promotion agency IPICOL has been recognised as a "Top Performer IPA" amongst 20 state investment promotion agencies (IPAs) by DPIIT. These are proof enough to suggest that Odisha has transformed itself into a business-friendly state in India. Our focus on health, education and Skills gives a broad social security enabling an aspirational workforce. All these initiatives are driven by the stable political leadership and committed and hardworking bureaucracy.

Which sectors in Odisha are you looking at investments in?

While we have grown significantly because of our natural resource advantage in metals and minerals, we now aim to diversify into other employment intensive and new age sectors. The focus sectors include petrochemicals and chemicals, metals and mining, textiles and apparel, engineering goods, food processing, automotive, Electronics and information technology (IT)/IT enabled services (ITeS) and tourism.

How can UAE-based businessmen gain from doing business in Odisha?

Odisha is one of the fastest growing states in India with an ever-increasing market. It is fast emerging as the manufacturing hub in metal, petrochemicals and chemicals, apparels, and food processing. Odisha has the strategic advantage of a long coastline and provides immense opportunities for port-led development. Businesses from the UAE can use Odisha as an export hub and gateway to Southeast Asian countries.

Besides the existing ports at Paradip and Dhamra, our government has been facilitating the development of various ports all along the coast. The UAE has a well-developed and functional port operations, logistics and warehousing facilities and excels in the areas mentioned above. UAE’s expertise in logistics and warehousing, port development, container handling, free trade zones can be explored for investments in Odisha and partner in the state’s success story.

What is your government offering to the UAE-based investors in terms of facilities and return on investments?

My state offers a host of fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to the UAE-based investors. We offer a highly conducive industrial ecosystem and business-friendly environment for the growth of industries. Apart from quick project approvals, we offer quality land parcels on a fast-track mode for the industries.

To promote timely commissioning of projects, the government fast-tracks the land allotment and other approvals through the single window system. Over 50 services are now made available online through the single window system. A dedicated nodal officer at the state level is available to handhold and support in the project commissioning. Besides, dedicated District Investment Promotion Agencies have been set up to handhold and guide the investors at the ground level from project commissioning and operation. We offer a host of incentives such as capital subsidy, stamp duty exemption, power tariff reimbursement, training subsidy etc. Our incentive package is one of the best in India. We are a modern state with transparent and transformative governance.

What’s your impression about the digital transformation of Dubai and the UAE?

Digital transformation is going to define the path of development in the 21st century and we are looking to collaborate with the UAE in this area to bring about real benefits to our people. It is extremely impressive to witness the rise of the UAE as a global leader in digital transformation. I was not at all surprised to see the UAE do so well in the UN eGovernment Development Index. We are also looking to leverage technology for bringing about tangible transformation in the lives of our people and the UAE’s digital transformation story offers us great lessons in this regard.

I must congratulate the UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention (Mohap) for winning in the digital transformation in healthcare category at the World Summit on the Information Society Forum's 2022 (WSIS) in Switzerland for the national unified medical record platform, Riayati. I have asked my officials to study this system so that we can also learn from it. Governance, healthcare, education, and industrial facilitation are some of the key areas where digital transformation is going to play a key role in the coming decades, and we will be fortunate to have a partner like the UAE in navigating the future challenges through digital transformation.


Copyright © 2022 Khaleej Times. All Rights Reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (