Trip with capital gains

IT WAS a busy four days (Jan 9-12) for Mr S. Iswaran in India. He started his India visit in Delhi and then moved on to Ahmedabad and Andhra Pradesh.

Mr Iswaran who is Minister, Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Home Affairs and Second Minister for Trade and Industry, was there to launch Vistara airline's first flight to Gujarat's capital Ahmedabad where he took part in the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit.

"For SIA, this is a project in the making for some time. I think seeing it come to fruition in the new year in the context of an event like the Vibrant Gujarat is a welcome development," Mr Iswaran told reporters after landing in Ahmedabad from Delhi on a Vistara aircraft.

SIA holds a 49 per cent stake in Vistara while India's Tata Sons holds the remaining 51 per cent.

While in Ahmedabad, Mr Iswaran called on India's prime minister Narendra Modi. They discussed the Indian government's 100 smart cities initiative, that includes a plan to create new cities and upgrade infrastructure in existing cities. He also called on Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel.

The following day, he attended the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit in which Singapore was a partner for the first time.

Said chairman of Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) Dr R. Theyvendran: "Prime minister Modi has been opening doors to the international business community under his leadership and this has created renewed interest in the Indian market." Dr Theyvendran had a 30-strong delegation with him.

Mr Iswaran, who addressed the summit on the opening day, said the 100-strong group of Singaporean businessmen attending reflects the high level of interest and confidence that Singapore's business community has in the investment and business opportunities offered by Gujarat and the rest of India.

He mentioned that Singapore is in talks with India to help build new cities and explore new opportunities to create townships as well as industrial and IT parks. Mr Iswaran also visited the Singapore Pavilion, set up by International Enterprise Singapore, where about 20 Singapore companies showcased their capabilities in a wide range of sectors such as urban solutions, manufacturing and energy.

Mr Iswaran then flew to Hyderabad to meet Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu. Currently, both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana share Hyderabad as the capital.

Andhra Pradesh will build a new capital in the Vijayawada-Guntur region and Singapore is helping in that effort.

During the visit it was announced that Singapore's Surbana International Consultants and Jurong International will draw up the master plan for the new capital that will come up in an area of 7,000 sq km.

Planning for the new capital will be done in three stages.

The first stage will involve reviewing existing plans and data to produce an efficient land-use plan that incorporates commercial and residential properties, public facilities, transport and infrastructure, as well as an analysis of demographic and potential economic drivers.

The second stage will see the consortium come up with a concept plan for the capital city that includes proposals for water, power and transport infrastructure development as well as zoning plans.

The final stage will involve developing the core city of around 8 sq km. This will include finer details such as open spaces, pedestrian and traffic circulation.

"The Singapore Government will give a detailed action plan of Stage 1 by mid-February, Stage 2 by the end of April and Stage 3 by the first week of June, (from which we can) start construction," said Mr Naidu at a press conference in Hyderabad.

According to the Singapore side, planning of this scale usually takes at least nine months to complete, so the six-month time frame would be a major challenge.

"There will be multiple challenges but the state government is committed to helping us make the process more fluid. In such a project, land acquisition is a major component, so we hope that can be sped up too," said Dr Uma Maheswaran, chief executive of Jurong Consultants (India), a unit of Jurong International.

Mr Iswaran was taken on a tour of Andhra Pradesh by Mr Naidu. It included a visit to Visakhapatnam where he took part in the annual Sankranti festival. The tour included an aerial view of Vijayawada where the state's new capital will be built and ended with a visit to the famed Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam Temple.

Tamilavel, deputy news editor at Tamil Murasu, accompanied Minister Iswaran on the India trip.

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