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Panel to track MoUs, bonhomie with Ambani — how Andhra investors’ summit could boost Jagan’s image

Over 8,000 investors and delegates attended two-day Global Investors’ Summit in Visakhapatnam. Andhra govt secured MoUs amounting to financial commitments of Rs 13.4 lakh crore.

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Visakhapatnam: During a Global Investors’ Summit on 3 and 4 March, Andhra Pradesh signed 378 memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with investors that are expected to yield a total investment of Rs 13.4 lakh crore. More than 8,000 investors and delegates participated in the summit, which the state government is projecting as a success.

On the stage at the sprawling grounds of the Andhra University in Visakhapatnam was Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, seated next to billionaire industrialist Mukesh Ambani. The apparent bonhomie between them, reflected in their continuous conversation throughout the five-hour session on 3 March, was one of the highlights of the summit.

But that’s not all. Others on stage included Karan Adani, son of Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani and CEO of Adani Ports; Jindal Steel and Power chairman and former MP Naveen Jindal; and Dalmia Group MD Puneet Dalmia. Also present were Sumant Sinha, chairman of ReNew Group — one of India’s largest renewable energy companies — and Bharat Biotech’s chairman Krishna Ella, along with representatives of Kia Motors.

Ambani laid out his plans for a 10-gigawatt (GW) solar plant, while Karan Adani announced his decision to set up renewable power projects with a cumulative capacity of 15,000 megawatts (MW) and a data centre in the state, and Naveen Jindal reiterated his continued commitment to Andhra Pradesh.

Overall, the YSR Congress government is hoping that the summit will boost the image of the chief minister, who has been facing criticism for allegedly not attracting enough investments and for prioritising welfare schemes, including ‘freebies’, over infrastructure development.

An elected representative from the state who is also a close aide of the chief minister told ThePrint on condition of anonymity, “One of the biggest criticisms that our CM faced was how Andhra did not get any major investments over the last few years and how Jagan’s focus on welfare schemes is pushing the state’s infrastructure development into the dark and that is why investors do not feel like coming to Andhra Pradesh”. 

“But with this summit, all that criticism has been washed away. He (Jagan) managed to get Ambani, Adani and several other big names to sit with him on a single stage for hours and also secured investments from them, along with hundreds of MoUs that were signed. So, all of this is a major image boost for him, especially as we move closer to the polls,” he added. 

In addition to their commitments, industrialists also projected their confidence in the state government by praising Jagan. Be it Ambani’s amicable behaviour towards the chief minister or Puneet Dalmia’s remarks about how the letter ‘J’ stands for both “Jagan” and “josh” (enthusiasm).

Also Read: What is Andhra govt’s GO-1 & why oppn says it ‘stops them from connecting with masses’

Andhra govt forms panel to monitor MoUs

Of the 378 MoUs secured by the Andhra Pradesh government, a significant number were signed with Indian companies. Though a majority of the commitments were made in the tourism, information technology (IT) and ITES (information technology enabled services) sectors, about 40 per cent of the MoUs were signed with companies engaged in the energy sector.

On Saturday, the final day of the summit, CM Jagan said the state government would set up a monitoring committee headed by the chief secretary to hold weekly meetings to track how many of the MoUs were transforming into actual investments.

“Our track record from 2019 to now shows that we have converted 89 per cent of such MOUs in the past into realistic investments. We’re pitching for the same target this time,” Andhra Pradesh IT minister Gudivada Amarnath told ThePrint in an exclusive interview.

Sridhar Lanka, adviser to the government on matters of industries and commerce, said groundwork for inviting and finalising investment proposals had been laid last August followed by roadshows and 20 meetings in each of four cities, and an investors’ meet in Delhi.

“We held roadshows (in December) in four cities such as Bengaluru, Chennai and others in the run-up to the summit. And in each city, we held at least 20 different meetings with the investors. A team was set up by the state government which included financial and legal experts; they were all part of the meetings. There were also major investors and diplomats meeting in Delhi,” said Lanka.

He explained that whenever the government received an investment proposal, it was scrutinised for 15 days, “like assessing company financials and legal issues” before it was approved. “The Andhra government is really keen on boosting renewable energy, so a large part of our focus was also on that sector,” he added.

IT minister Amarnath said the government recorded the presence of about 25-30 countries at the Global Investors’ Summit.

With over 100 speakers, the summit witnessed about 15 sector-specific sessions pertaining to the automobile and EV, healthcare and medical equipment, renewable energy, green hydrogen, green ammonia, and agri-tourism sectors, said a statement from the Andhra Pradesh government.

Additionally, four sessions were organised with representatives of the UAE, the Netherlands, Vietnam, and Australia to explore opportunities for collaborations with Andhra Pradesh, the statement added.

In 2019, the Andhra Pradesh government faced flak for spearheading a bill in the legislative assembly that imposed a 75 per cent reservation quota for locals in private industrial jobs. The move was seen by the opposition and industry experts as one that could hurt investment prospects in the state. The government, however, maintained that it would establish skill development centres to prepare young people to take up jobs.

Devraj Dasari, chairman of the Manufacturers Services and Marketing Entrepreneurs Chamber Of Commerce, said he welcomes the investments, especially in the energy sector because “those will be beneficial to local existing industries as they can avail their services and boost the local micro, small and medium enterprises sector, and will give them business”.

“But we think the government should focus on improving their skill development centres. At this point, their courses are too regularised. They must be customised to suit a certain job, so that a person wanting to work in a certain sector can opt for that course,” he added.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

Also Read: Will develop Vizag as IT capital & Amaravati ‘only as required’, says Andhra finance minister


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