KOCHI: The two-day ‘Vikasarth Roundtable’ discussing ‘Rebuilding the Kerala Economy: Time for a paradigm shift?’ concluded in Kochi on Saturday. The roundtable was organised by the Centre for Public Policy Research, Kochi in collaboration with the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), a New York-based non-profit organisation.

Around 70 participants including government officials, students, academics and entrepreneurs attended the event. Former Chief Secretary Paul Antony said Kerala needs to let go of the old rhetoric and get realistic about its economic priorities. Instead of creating new government jobs, Kerala can foster an ecosystem to generate more jobs in the private sector. Kerala’s often hyperactive Local Governance Machinery needs empowerment to move beyond regulation and to create and sustain industries and jobs.

He underlined the need to turn around Kerala’s loss making Public Sector Undertakings by strengthening them with a qualified board of directors and hard budget restrictions or through disinvestment. He points to Public Private Partnership as the way forward, citing Kerala’s stellar Public Distribution System as one of the earliest and the best example for the same.

B A Prakash, Chairman, Fifth State Finance Commission Kerala answered various questions about the fiscal situation in the state. “To solve the fiscal crisis in Kerala, there is a need to curtail non-plan expenditure by controlling salaries, pensions, interest payments and unnecessary administrative expenses,” he said.

Saji Gopinath, CEO, Kerala Startup Mission said even with high literacy rates, Kerala is has a high unemployment rate.  Mohammed Hanish, MD KMRL, talked about the state and the relevance of public sector undertakings in Kerala.  Sanjeev Kaushik, Principal Secretary, Department of Finance, Kuttanad RMO Paul Peter and Sunanda Nair Bidkar, Director of Strategic Planning, Institute of New Economic Thinking, New York, spoke.

*This news story can be also read at The New Indian Express website