Thursday, November 24, 2011

Kerala's Voice Heard in a British Parliament chamber for the first time

Anto Antony, a young Congress MP from Kerala became the first to speak about Kerala in the hallowed precincts of the British Parliament building. The occasion was an unprecedented meeting of the UK-Kerala Business Forum in a chamber named after William Pitt, chaired by Virendra Sharma, MP of the House of Commons. The honour was shared by Kerala Minister Shibu Baby John and former ambassador T.P.Sreenivasan, VC, KSHEC, who answered questions from the British MPs gathered there for the occasion. In attendance was a large contingent of Kerala businessmen in the UK

Antony spoke of the cultural links between India and the UK and the features that make Kerala an ideal destination for British tourists and investors. He laid out a number of avenues for cooperation between the UK and Kerala. He made a convincing case for investments in education, infrastructure, IT, health care, waste management, renewable energy and others.

In the discussion that followed, the British M.Ps raised a number of questions, including Communism in Kerala, the caste system and tourism potential. The Kerala delegation gave convincing answers and the gathering agreed that collaboration projects should be initiated immediately, given the potential of Kerala and the keenness of the British industry to diversify its presence in India.

In a separate session with the concerned British agencies and industrial houses, supplemented by leading Kerala businessmen, again chaired by Virendra Sharma, Antony and Sreenivasan made specific proposals for collaboration. These were analyzed by the concerned agencies in a preliminary manner and it was agreed that as many British businessmen as possible should attend the Investment Forum being planned in Kochi in 2012.

The following areas were identified for preparation of detailed studies by the two sides:
Waste Management
Power and Energy

As for modalities, it was suggested that the Kerala side would submit to the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) detailed proposals for a dozen projects. Kerala would work initially with Middlesex University and the Commonwealth Business School to explore possibilities in education and that the UK-Kerala Forum would receive British proposals and forward them to the Kerala Government.

Some members of the Kerala delegation, notably MLAs Mons Joseph and TUKuruvilla, who arrived late, participated in the informal discussions after the meeting.

Full credit should be given to the UK-Kerala Forum led by Virendra Sharma MP, Philip Abraham, George and Pius, who not only made perfect arrangements in London, but also made every effort to ensure adequate representation from Kerala.

Anto Antony MP was extremely enthusiastic and gave strong leadership to the Kerala delegation. His interaction at all levels helped the deliberations.

The only snag was that several members could not get their visas on time.The visa issue was noted as detrimental to the growth of business relations.

As the first meeting of a new initiative by Virendra Sharma and a group of Keralites in the UK, it was a great success But efficient follow up action is essential to move forward.

Vice-Chairman, KSHEC

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