At the World Economic Forum yesterday, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, appeared to make a pitch for fiber to home over wireless broadband, saying that while the central governments (both past and present) have been looking to connect panchayats (village governance council) with broadband connectivity, it won’t help. “Every house minimum 100 mbps we have to provide,” Naidu said. “Every house. Then only you’ll have access to everything. We’ll take it up with the Prime Minster. We’ll prove it in Andhra Pradesh, where in 1-1.5 years, we will go for high bandwidth in every house. I want to provide that.”
Naidu was responding to a question on his views on spectrum auctions in India, due next year, where there have been complaints about the lack of spectrum piecemealed to telecom operators, thereby not giving them sufficient spectrum to play provide fast, reliable and high quality services. Naidu believes that fiber optic connectivity is the best way of providing connectivity. “Laying fiber is not a big issue. It’s cost effective. If we spend more money on this, it is the best infrastructure, and growth will have a multiplier effect.”
Note that India faces major right-of-way issues, and providing wireline connectivity is very expensive in the country, but that might not be a problem for Andhra Pradesh, since Naidu has to build a new capital city for the state, after the formation of Telangana.
Naidu made a strong pitch to businesses for investing in the state. Naidu led among the more business-friendly governments in India in the 90’s, and his policies led to the setting up of operations in Hyderabad of many companies, including Google, Microsoft and Amazon. Hyderabad is now the capital of Telangana, and Naidu appears to be focusing significantly on technology and making doing business easier for driving growth in the state. Notes from his speech (somewhat paraphrased):
– On Digital Education: “We need bandwidth. Every house, if you connect proper high bandwidth fiber optic connectivity, then from home we can learn continuously. Skill upgradation is the biggest issue in India, with people unemployed and underemployed, with employers feeling they don’t have proper persons. If we do skill upgradation using modern tools, then our productivity will improve. Our salaries will get better. In Andhra Pradesh, we originally only had 30 engineering colleges in 1994. I started increasing, and made it 300 engineering colleges. I produced a number of engineers, working all over the world, and they’re sending money back home. Here I’m involving private partnership as well.”
“I visited a Cisco development center. Quality content is very very important. If we pay Rs 60 per student, we will have digital classrooms. An interactive classroom. Quality education, with quality content. Skill upgradation, agriculture. How to give best practices is important. Our students are brilliant – world class. They don’t have infrastructure. They will learn. Teachers and students are equal, and students will learn better than teachers. This is the only way to bring revolution.”
– On the need for entrepreneurs: “It’s only when you create wealth that you have inclusive growth. If there is no wealth, there is no growth. You can go for reforms, at the same time, we have to keep our political mandate. That is what I learned (from losing power).”
“I took entrepreneurs with me on my delegations: I used to visit a country every six months, with a trade delegation. A network got built, and our entrepreneurs learned from the trade delegations. India needs more and more entrepreneurs – SMEs, infrastructure, tourism, small scale. I gave a call for every family – one computer literate and one entrepreneur. It might not happen. We’re starting incubation centers, startup villages, startup companies, I’m promoting. It doesn’t matter if you lose money, but you have to promote.
– Using Aadhaar for governance: “Aadhaar accounts, and seeded all other benefits to aadhaar accounts: housing, pensions, agriculture loans. There’s enormous savings on the PDS, with all bogus removed. We’re able to save Rs 700 crores every year.”
“Recently, we used to give Rs 200 pension, so they’re miserable. I increased it to Rs 1000. How to select, is an issue. I got all Aadhaar information, with age, land records. On the computer, we looked at the eligibility criteria. 10 lakh bogus pensioners were there, out of 47 lakhs; sometimes men were getting a widow pension; a 20 year old boy was getting pension; landlords with 40 acres of land were getting pensions. Again, we selected 6 lakhs, and after scrutiny, 1.5 lakh were removed. We sent it for distribution. Now, all pensioners can be given money on the first date through various banks. We’re introducing it through fingerprints with Aadhaar. Every month, 50-60 thousand old people die, but the money is still being drawn. Who is drawing? Middle-men are drawing. Transparency is importance, justice is importance.”
– Competition between states is good: “States have to compete with each other, and also market. I used to compete with Karnataka government for IT, and it will continue. We will complement where necessary, and compete where necessary. It is an overall benefit to the people. Even government of India, the PM is creating goodwill (by promoting the country internationally). That has to be harnessed by the state government.”
– Services vs Manufacturing: Naidu avoided mentioning manufacturing, but appeared to prefer pushing for services businesses since they generate more employment: “Our income comes in service sector – service sector is about less investment more income. For example, if you spend Rs 10 lakh on agriculture, you get 40 persons employment. The same Rs 10 lakh employs 10-15 people in the industry, same 10 lakhs in tourism, you’ll get 60-70 people employment. There’s huge potential for employment in tourism, service sector, real estate, banking.These are all areas where you have little investment, and integrate the overall economy.”
– An online dashboard for monitoring power: “For the last 5 months, we improved the generation of our power stations. We have 10,000 feeders from Delhi, and you can monitor the situation from your office. We’re also looking at cost effective power. We have advantages of Hydel, Thermal (gas), and finally Solar. We’re establishing one of the biggest solar power parks in the world. We can save 25-30% of energy. I have a CM dashboard, with how much power generated, how much relief taken, each feeder, and link everything.” Note, the dashboard is apparently also available online, here.
– Online clearances for businesses: “In Andhra Pradesh, we have 24×7 power, water 24×7, we’re earmarking land (SEZ), and huge land, and the best policy I can create for you. Once you set up your industry, intention, I will put it online. All clearances I will get done. Even deemed clause, I’m introducing. We will get clearances in 30 days, and after 30 days, it’s a deemed clause so you can start with your construction. It’s the responsibility of the government, not the industry. It is possible. We have escort officers who will assist you to get things done.”