India Business
Finally, Smart City project inked
May 13, 2007 - 3:48:33 PM

Thiruvananthapuram, May 13 - The much-awaited Rs.15 billion --Smart City project between the Kerala government and Dubai Internet City -, aimed to put Kerala on the global IT map, was inked here Sunday.

The project was signed Sunday, nearly three years after it was first mooted. It is different from the one proposed by the previous Oommen Chandy government and comes a few days before Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan completes his first year in office.

The agreement was inked by Ahmad Bi Byat, executive chairman of Tecom Investment, and Lizzie Jacob, chief secretary of Kerala.

Smart City, to be set up in Kochi, is a joint venture company of Tecom Investments and Sama Dubai.

Top officials of DIC arrived in a charter flight around 1 p.m. and drove straight to the state-owned Mascot Hotel to sign the agreement. They will leave in the evening.

'This is a historic ceremony and a happy occasion for me. This has materialised after long discussions and would be mutually beneficial and economically a boost for Kerala. More importantly this would strengthen the relationship between Kerala and Middle East,' said a beaming Achuthanandan.

The development is seen as a moral victory for Achuthanandan as he had earlier opposed the terms for the project worked out by the then Congress-led United Democratic Front - government.

The agreement with DIC does not include transfer of the Infopark campus at Kochi, which had been agreed upon by Chandy. While the former chief minister had agreed to sell 236 acres of land at a cost of Rs.260 million - and given DIC full ownership, Achuthanandan made them agree to 246 acres of land at a cost of Rs.1.06 billion -, which would be given on lease for 99 years.

Further, Chandy had agreed to 33,000 new jobs being created by Smart City, but Achuthanandan got them increased to 90,000.

Speaking on the occasion, Ahmad Bi Byat said Smart City would be home to the best companies of India and abroad.

'This project would certainly put Kerala on the global IT map. It would just not be the IT sector alone that would benefit but others too,' said Byat.

The project would have 8.8 million square feet of building of which 70 percent would be for IT and IT enabled services.

Later speaking to reporters, Achuthanandan said the master plan of the project would be ready in a year and the construction would begin soon after. Only then would they be able to know the exact project investment.

A close aide of Achuthanandan told IANS that despite rewriting the agreements on seven different occasions, the real pressure on DIC came last month when the chief minister began to take steps to float a global tender for the project.

'When the file for that was ready, the DIC officials announced the clearing of the project last month,' said the aide.

State Congress president Ramesh Chennithala said they were happy that the Left government had signed the agreement for the project initiated by them.

'They were saying first that DIC is nothing but a real estate company, and see today the agreement has been signed. Tomorrow, Chandy would be speaking to the press on this,' he said.

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