“Investments in Top Gear”, Hemant Sharma

“Investments in Top Gear”, Hemant Sharma

Hemant Sharma is known to be one of the most articulate and influential mandarins in the Odisha bureaucracy. He is widely adored for his extensive knowledge, varied administrative acumen and flair for fast-tracking development projects. He has pulled all stops to ensure that Odisha basks in the halo of resurgent industrialization and cements its position as the El Dorado for investors.

Sharma believes that an enabling policy ecosystem is a key to attracting and sustaining the investment tempo. He feels no policy is cast in stone and is always open to the suggestions and recommendations by the industry and all non-state actors to improve the policy narrative and make it more congenial for investments and employment.

Sharma realizes the multiplier effect the fresh investments can have on the Odisha economy. The state’s economy has consistently grown above 8 per cent and has outpaced the national economy year after year. Hence, he has kicked off this practice of engaging the industry stakeholders in regular dialogue. Titled ‘Industry Care’, this bipartite government-industry interface is doing wonders for the economic landscape and is proving to be a win-win for all.

Under the aegis of industry care, Sharma and the senior officials of the industries department have been visiting the crucial industrial clusters. And taking feedback on the constraints faced by industrial units operating there and how their recommendations can be onboarded on the policy table. This 1995-batch IAS officer has handled multiple portfolios with panache and has a creditable record everywhere. What’s even more striking is the resonance he builds with all stakeholders. That’s because of his penchant for reforms and a clear, no-nonsense approach to work.
Odisha is on the cusp of Industry 4.0 or the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Intersecting policy narrative with the deployment of niche technologies, the state government, under the stewardship of Sharma is making the investment ecosystem a robust one. Tech-led interventions like Go-SWIFT or the Government of Odisha Single Window Investor Facilitation & Tracking have expedited approvals and shrunk the average time to clear an investment proposal to 19 days.

Right from the stage of the conception of a project, identification and mapping of land to its implementation and beyond, this seamless portal caters to every grievance or complaint that an industry proponent faces. In a major relief to the operative industrial units, this digitalized system has made inspections and certifications a lot easier.

Since the opening up of India’s economy and lifting the license permit raj in 1991, Odisha has drawn investments totalling over Rs 16 lakh crore across sectors. The state could sustain the investment sentiment primarily due to the Industrial Policy Resolution (IPR) 2015, a statement that has seen substantial revisions over the years. Due to this policy backbone, Odisha could attract investments valued at around Rs 2 lakh crore over the past nine months. The state has always attracted investment in traditional manufacturing sectors such as iron and steel, aluminium, cement, thermal power, and others. It had inherent advantages with mineral reserves, contributing around 22-24 per cent of the state’s revenue. Though the service sector is the largest contributor to Odisha’s gross value addition (GVA) at 40.51 per cent as of FY20, the state’s fortunes are majorly linked to metallurgical industries with FDI inflow worth $16.58 million between April and November last year.

With some big-ticket infrastructure initiatives like the Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemicals Investment Region (PCPIR) and the ambitious economic corridor, the state’s industrial engine is going great guns. The PCPIR hub is expected to attract investments to the tune of Rs 2.74 lakh crore with Indian Oil Corporation (IOCL) as the anchor tenant. IOCL, besides its Rs 33,000-crore 15-million tonne per annum oil refinery, would set up a 700-kilo tonne per annum polypropylene unit at an investment of Rs 3150 crore. Industrial Development Corporation of Odisha (IDCO) has formed an SPV, Paradeep Investment Region Development, to develop the required infrastructure for the project. The Odisha Economic Corridor (OEC) would stretch 100 kilometres on either side of NH-16, covering 19 districts, and would provide logistics access. The corridor would connect the state’s mineral-rich hinterland, which has coal reserves of 86 per cent, iron ore reserves of 82 per cent, bauxite reserves of 70 per cent, and natural gas reserves of 40 per cent. By 2025, OEC could generate Rs 4 lakh crore of manufacturing output, Rs 81,000 crore of investment and 8 lakh additional direct jobs, Sharma says.

With Sharma at the helm of affairs, we could imagine Odisha leapfrogging into the top quartile of industrial growth.

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