Date: March 12

Organizers: Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR); British High Commission (BHC); and the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC)

Venue: Radisson Blu, Kochi

Kochi: “Kerala’s LSG’s are the most powerful in the country,” claimed PH Kurian, Principal Secretary, Industry and IT department of Kerala. He was speaking at the Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR) event called Breaking Business Barriers: South India Conclave held in the city on March 12. The event was held with the support of the British High Commission (KSIDC), and the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC).

The panel session he was part of, moderated by Madhu S, Project Director, CPPR, was on Environment Clearances and the role of Local Self Governments. Other panellists included: Jose Dominic, MD, CGH Earth; Shekhar Tamhane, MD, ULTRA Tech Environment; KJ Sohan, former Mayor; K Kishore Alva, Executive Director, Corporate Relations and Project Development, Udupi Power Corporation ltd; and Balasubramanian of Kerala Small Scale Industries Association (KSSIA).

Based on CPPR’s research with respect to seeking environmental clearances while doing business, online consent management and environment impact assessment, according to Madhu S, is one of the key recommendations. Agreeing with him, KJ Sohan suggested going the e-route: “E-governance, e- payment can control corruption.”

Speaking on the plethora of rules and regulations that hinder ease of business in Kerala, Dominic exclaimed: “Four of our projects are stuck in Kerala, due to issues related to plantation rules and wetland rules.” Adding to this, Tamanae said: “All regulations and rules have ambiguity.” Stringent laws and rules discourage investors, pointed out Alve. Empathising with them, Kurian added: “Rules are made in such a way that nobody understands it and effort has not been made to simplify the rules.”
“It’s difficult to start an industry in Kerala,” added Subramanian.

This panel discussion was followed by another on Taxation and Finance, moderated by CPPR’s Aneish Rajan, IRS, and one of the founder trustees of CPPR. Others on the panel include: Sujeet Kumar, Special Officer, Odisha Planning Board; Hemant Jayaram, Director, Finance Sai Projects and Systems; Vivek Govind, Partner, Varma and Varma; MR Venkatesh, CA, author and commentator on economics and trade affairs.

This session began following a presentation on CPPR’s research findings and recommendations. “Indian tax system titled towards enforcement rather than compliance,” said Archana MV, setting the tone of the discussion. So, is the answer a tax-free regime or a litigation-free regime, inquired Rajan. Laws are extremely complicated in India, and are formulated assuming that every Indian who starts a business is a rogue. “This perception complicates ease of doing business,” added Venkatesh.

But things are getting better, feels Govind. “Efforts are being made in the right direction especially with simplification of indirect tax,” he added.

Speaking about the need to improve the banking system, shedding light on the disadvantages faced by small businesses, Jayaram added that Banks very cautious while giving funds to MSMEs but not when it comes to big corporates. Here, Kumar added his displeasure over governments funding small businesses like a startup: “Government should not to be in the business of lending money to start ups.”

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