Emulate Dubai-like Initiatives

Incorporate a Department of Economic Development (DED)



We can’t emphasize enough on the need for a private sector economic growth in Jammu & Kashmir. The goal here would be to create a conducive macro-environment for investment and small and medium enterprise growth. The State would need better public infrastructure in all sectors – better road connectivity, better hospitals, better hotels, etc. The State would however need to precede tangible growth in infrastructure with a drastic and revolutionary change in our policies. The only official, government outreach in this context has come in the form of the Jammu & Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI), which was incorporated in 1997 but started operations not until 2004. 
In my personal opinion the JKEDI is an initiative 100 years behind today’s time and is a half-baked, poorly empowered attempt to give fillip to small and entrepreneurial business growth in our State. The JKEDI has been reduced to a training and funding institution to tackle unemployment. The JKEDI is an agency, not a department as is the tradition in heavily nationalized systems and economies such as the one we have in J&K. Incidentally, for instance, even our answer to the enormously significant area of alternative energy development is an agency (Energy Development Agency – EDA) as opposed to a department that would have an independent agenda and more importantly a dedicated commitment in our State Budgets. The Department of Information and Technology has also been nothing beyond a few draft plans, “vision” statements and a Software Development Park that is perhaps one of the least successful SDPs in the country.
Dubai is perhaps one of the brightest success stories of our times and has gone from being an investment destination to a preferred business destination in the service sector. And there are reasons for this beyond Dubai’s location and the economic prosperity of the region around Dubai. Amongst a host of practical, working initiatives to boost economic development in Dubai, the Department of Economic Development (DED) was established in March 1992, “with the objective to organize, regulate and boost trade and industry within the Emirate of Dubai.” We would eventually be well-served to compare the JKEDI with Dubai’s DED to realize how the JKEDI is a slightly unimpressive initiative. The Dubai DED has “full responsibility to DED to plan and regulate the overall economic performance of Dubai, supervise its functions and support the economic development to ensure the objectives of the Dubai Strategic Plan are achieved.” To start with, our State is and has long been in dire need of a comprehensive, goal-oriented ‘Strategic Plan’, but for a Government that can’t come to go beyond “reviews” of our disastrously limiting Master Plan; a ‘Strategic Plan’ would be an unreasonable expectation.
Dubai government’s and notably HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s approach towards economic development initiatives has been pugnacious! The Department of Economic Development in Dubai, from its inception has gone through a phenomenal and consistent greater empowerment and an ever-widening mandate. The DED now has four new agencies under its umbrella. These are:
1. Dubai Export Development Corporation (DEDC)
2. Dubai Events & Promotion Establishment
3. Foreign Direct Investment
4. Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for SME Development
The SME (Small & Medium Enterprise) Fund for instance has been a phenomenal success in boosting entrepreneurial growth in Dubai. The SME Fund is a dedicated fund which has the impetus and drive of a Venture Capitalist Fund despite being a not-for-profit fund established for a macro-level goal. The SME Fund has diverse assistance products for different hosts. The statistical success is unbelievable!
The FDI end of the DED is responsible for attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to Dubai, creating a conducive atmosphere towards that end and helping the government draft policies that would provide better regulation, organization and boost.          
We need drastic reforms and drastic reforms call for drastic policy shift and dynamic new policies. We need to stop imitating and start emulating the success stories of economic development around the country, if not around the world. The development stories of Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai, Qatar can be emulated with the aim of making J&K an investment friendly, low-corporate-taxes, well-regulated economic zone. This perhaps would call for a shared political vision between India and Pakistan to make J&K a SEZ (Special Economic Zone), a greater will by the State Government towards economic development and private sector growth and a less hostile and red-tapist bureaucratic system. First and foremost though, we need an imaginative government.

(Junaid Azim Mattu is the Srinagar District President of Peoples’ Conference. Views are personal. Feedback at Junaid.msu@gmail.com)

Lastupdate on : Fri, 14 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 14 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 15 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST

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