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February - March 2009


Political News

Vibrant Gujarat or Dynamic Modi

by Barry Gardiner


Whisper it. Whisper it very quietly. I want to tell you a secret. As we speak, companies’ balance sheets are being redrawn. Thousands of jobs are being lost across the world. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a time of global economic crisis is no moment to showcase your state to the world in order to attract new investment.

But whisper it very quietly. Because for all the economists’ certainty; for all the commentators’ united doom-mongering, nobody remembered to tell the Chief Minister of Gujarat.

But look around you. We are here in our hundreds. Here in our thousands. From every corner of the globe; businesses with one purpose, with one objective, here for one reason: because we all want to invest in success.

That is the difference between leaders and commentators. Leaders lead and commentators have nothing left to say.

More than 60 years ago, at a time of global and national crisis, Gujarat produced one of her greatest sons: Sardar Patel. The iron man of India. He it was who had both the vision and the strength of will to forge a unified nation out of the separate states. He did not just dream the dream. He got things done.

Today India and the world face the triple threat of global recession, global terrorism and global warming. And Gujarat has produced a new son for a new century. Not a man of iron, but a man of tempered steel. Narendra Modi.

Next week a new president will brave the chill Washington winter and take the oath of office before entering the White House. And the world will perhaps recall the inaugural speech given by one of his greatest predecessors, Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the worst time of the Great Depression, when companies balance sheets were being redrawn; thousands of jobs were being lost and the poorest of the poor were being sacrificed on the altar of a balanced federal budget. FDR restored confidence and hope to the American people when he explained to them that “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”. In facing up to the triple threats of gloal recession, global terrorism and global warming, we must not give way to fear. We must have the courage of a lion. And a lion of Gujarat at that!

Scratch history and you will find geography. And Gujarat has many natural advantages. It is the natural gateway to much of the rest of India and that has meant that its people have always been traders and entrepreneurs.

Each and every mile of its thousand miles of coastline represents a thousand different families who have with confidence set sail to market their goods and their skills in other parts of the globe. It is no coincidences that, amongst the largest delegations here today are those from East Africa: from Kenya and Uganda and indeed from my own country, the UK where the Gujarati community is one of the most industrious and certainly the highest achieving.

My parliamentary colleagues Stephen Pound MP and Baroness Billingham and I were delighted too to meet last night with His Excellency the Ambassador from the Republic of Indonesia which has the largest Moslem population of any country in the world, and His Excellency Ambassador \ahmed Salem Al-Wahishi from the League of Arab States. What a pity that our own British High Commissioner is not here himself to see so many nations of so many faiths join with all the people of Gujarat to celebrate commerce and culture here at the Vibrant Gujarat Festival.

But Britain’s delegation is strong and we will be concluding a number of important MOUs in the next few days, and it has received the overwhelming support of the British parliament where 112 MPs signed an early day motion welcoming the fact that Britain is the largest Foreign Direct Investor in Gujarat and supporting this wonderful festival as a focus of community harmony benefiting all of its people.

Business wants certainty. And certainty only comes with a strong and robust infrastructure and a clear regulatory regime. It was Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee who spoke of the country’s roads as the “lines on the palm” of your hand. Just as the lines on your palm are said to govern your fate, so good lines of transportation, whether road or rail, determine the fate of business and economic growth.

But if I may add to the former prime minister’s metaphor: energy is the lifeblood of industry and the fact that with the assistance of British Gas, Gujarat has the only state wide LNG supply network in India is equally important.

Above all Gujarat has grown a reputation for a clear and transparent regulatory framework where bureaucracy is minimized and decisions are taken quickly. It may be the world’s smallest car, but the fact that the Nano is coming to Gujarat is perhaps the biggest compliment that could have been paid to the State Government. Shri Ratan Tata’s words will resound as the best marketing slogan Vibrant Gujarat could wish for.

Yes Vibrant Gujarat will bring economic growth. We all believe that or we wouldn’t be here. Perhaps the real question though is “What sort of growth will it bring?” Will that growth be clean growth leading to low carbon technologies and new green jobs or will it be dirty carbon intensive development that creates for the people of Gujarat as many problems as it solves?

So often in the past people have thought that the development agenda and the environment agenda were separate – alternatives to each other — when in fact they are one and the same. In December of this year the United Nations forum on Combating Climate Change will meet in Copenhagen to agree on a post-2012 framework. There are two imperatives:

First we must drastically reduce global greenhouse gas emissions if we are to avoid dangerous climate change. Second we must ensure that economic growth is made available to everyone.

Over the last two centuries, economic growth has enabled just one third of the world’s population – largely in the Europe and North America – to escape from a life of hunger, hardship and disease. Over the past two decades another third of the world’s population – mostly here in Asia – has begun that journey too. Over the coming decades the final third will be looking to make their escape. This need for economic growth is both a moral imperative and deeply ingrained in the human spirit. As a politician, I would argue that it is nothing less than the concept of “Justice” itself.

Global warming presents us with perhaps the most complex problem of justice the world has ever faced. Because it is a question of justice between nations separated by geography and between generations separated by chronology. I believe that a truly Vibrant Gujarat will want to contribute to resolving this problem of justice. Government, business and civil society will all have to focus on abating the maximum amount of carbon at the minimum cost. There are five key areas:

Energy efficiency

Decarbonising energy sources

New technologies

Changing behaviour of managers and consumers

Preserving the world’s forests and carbon sinks

As you came into Gandhinagar this morning you will have seen the banners with the aspiration to be “Green Greener Greenest”. It is clear that Vibrant Gujarat already plans to build 500 megawatts of renewable energy supply from its wind and solar programmes. Let me put that into perspective: the renewable energy target for India as a whole is just 50 megawatts. Gujarat is planning ten times that amount. And there is a thousand miles of coastline that can generate even more renewable electricity from tidal and wave generation. Busses already run on LNG and tree and forest cover in the state is expanding.

Green growth is sustainable growth. It can bring with it new jobs and new technologies. It can bring long term certainty for business and secure our children’s future. Gujarat can lead the world in showing that economic development and a sustainable environment are the true and only workable model for a just society.

Ye it will take a leader of tempered steel. Yes it will take a man who gets things done and does not just dream the dream. But the reason I feel confident that it is Gujarat and India’s destiny to lead in this green revolution is that I have read your Sanskrit scriptures and I know of your reverence for mother earth.

Vande Mataram

Sujilam Sufilam Vande Mataram

For the sake of all our children I wish you God’s Speed.

Jai Hind!

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