It’s great to be back in Kerala. Not for nothing has National Geographic praised this as 1 of the “10 paradises of the world”. My thanks to the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Indian Green Building Congress for hosting us today. Both are passionate about seeing the sort of sustainable business-driven development that will stand Kerala in good stead for many years to come. And let me also pay tribute to Mr Ebrahim Kunju, Minister for Public Works, Government of Kerala. He has been a driving force in evolving a new approach to public works in Kerala; 1 designed to make the most of the dynamism woven into the DNA of Keralites.
Now when I last came to Kerala I saw that energy first hand. This was a furious hive of activity. An ancient trading port selling spices at the time of King Solomon had been turning into something more - a financial and commercial hub with a flourishing services sector and a world-wide reputation.
Nearly a decade on I couldn’t wait to return. Yet when I arrived I didn’t recognise the place. It’s been transformed again. Whether you look out to sea, where you’ll find the largest ship-building facility in India or whether you look inland to your $1 trillion IT industry, complete with your very own Silicon Valley. Clustered around Kochi info park…and a SmartCity on the way. California would be green with envy! Today Kerala is even looking at the stars, with the Thiruvananthapuram space centre standing ready to boldly go where no place in India has gone before. And if Keralites are hooked on achievement, yours is a state high on great expectations.
And since I’ve been here I’ve been left in no doubt that Kerala has big plans; It’s looking not 3 or 5 year or even 10 years ahead, but 17. Its got its eyes fixed on a 4-fold jump in the state’s annual per capita income. But the people of Kerala also know great ambitions must be underpinned by great infrastructure. Without it you won’t be able to train your work force, increase your exports, improve your standard of living or connect people with products.
Which is why you’ve a host of impressive major projects coming down the track, from the Vizhinjam International Deepwater Multipurpose Seaport – 1 of the largest of its kind in the world - to the Palakkad National Investment and Manufacturing Zone, giving your manufacturing base a much needed stimulus. From the Kochi Mono and Metro Rail Project to the Life Science Park in Thiruvananthapurum; not to mention all the road widening, bridge-building, nanotechnological and biotech innovation going on.
This is where Britain comes in. When it comes to urban growth, industrialisation and waterfront regeneration we’re old hands. These things haves shaped our urban landscape over the centuries. We gained our experience in master-planning, engineering, and architecture, transforming old cities into new havens. Like Salford Quays in Manchester or London’s Docklands. We’ve cut our teeth on massive infrastructure projects like the gold-medal winning Olympic stadium. The most sustainable of all stadiums delivered on time and on budget. Set amidst a parkland transformed from a forgotten wasteland into a beacon illuminating the proud new face of east London, with brand new universities, new shops and new homes. And we want to put this know-how at your service.
Close relationships are already paying off. On the national level we collaborate closely on everything from energy security to climate change and healthcare. We are looking at doubling our trade by 2015. Meanwhile, 40,000 Indian students are studying in the UK. And the British Council has trained nearly 1 million English language teachers, reaching over 17 million aspirational Indians who know that speaking English will help them get on in life. And not content with warm words, our Prime Minister has also gone out of his way to get deals motoring in India itself.
In Kerala we find new UK-India partnerships blossoming. The special-purpose vessels built at Cochin Shipyard Ltd that ensure safe marine navigation along the Indian coast were designed and powered by Rolls Royce Marine. In fact, Cochin Shipyard Ltd is the first shipyard worldwide to deliver this specialist Rolls Royce series of Platform Supply Vessel. And in Kochi these productive connections continue to bear fruit. HR Wallingford have developed the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal for Petronet LNG Ltd in Kochi. The terminal will help meet demand from the power, fertilizers and petrochemical industries in the region. These collaborations prove the Buddha’s adage: “happiness never decreases by being shared”.
So we’re good together. But this is clearly a relationship with room to grow. That’s why my delegation today represents the best of British. Chat to them and they will tell you about their work to deliver the Terminal 5 Heathrow Express extension. About their specialist design work to rebuild countries after earthquakes. About working on the Gold Coast light railway in Australia and on zero carbon buildings in Hong Kong.
Now the UK was 1 of the first countries to develop infrastructure using innovative financing structures. A fine example is currently firing up Crossrail to link the wealth of west London with the potential of east London. And the Local Enterprise Partnership representatives we’ve brought along with us also know a thing or 2 about partnership building. These marriages between local authorities and businesses are deciding what the priorities should be for investment in roads, buildings and facilities in their local area, instead of having it predetermined by Whitehall bureaucrats. It’s the sort of localist approach I imagine Keralites would approve of. Local Enterprise Partnership are also the driving force behind these new enterprise zones. With low business rates, relaxed planning and high speed broadband. Tethering together expertise such as aerospace industry in the black country or construction in Northamptonshire.
I believe it’s high time we took our relationship to the next level. That’s why I’m absolutely delighted today to be here cementing our bonds, drawing on British experience to help revitalise and regenerate Indian cities, to help galvanise big transport projects. I know UK companies, including those in the delegation, have some very interesting proposals on future projects in Kerala. Working together will allow us both to get where we want to go.
What India offers Britain
That’s the point. This isn’t a 1 way street. Ours is a relationship of mutual benefit. We know what we can offer you. But we also know what you can do for us. Like you, we are in the midst of an infrastructure boom, rolling out of superfast broadband, laying down a national high speed rail network, to give us the backbone to compete on the global stage. With our Indian friends on board we can make the most of the opportunities coming round the corner because you offer 3 things.
First, 1 of the largest markets on earth. Second, the sort of inward investment that saw Tata transform iconic British brand Jaguar Land Rover into a runaway success. Third that priceless thing we find here in abundance in Kochi: Enterprising energy. That spirit of endeavour and adventure that has seen you work wonders in every community you have graced. And that has made an incalculable contribution to British prosperity. So do business with Britain. We can’t promise you the sun every day or even every month. But we can offer you a fair wind and the sort of trading environment that will make you feel right at home - 1 of the most business friendly environments in the world, the lowest level of corporation tax in the G7 and Enterprise Zones armed with big government pots of investment at their disposal laying the foundations for future success. Above all we offer you this: a gilt-edged partnership to fulfil your potential.
So this is about strengthening the ties that bind us. When I look at Kerala and Britain I see 2 trading societies heading in the same direction, each with a determination and a desire for prosperity and sustainable development. Let’s set the seal on these partnerships today. I want to see as many of you as I can during the networking lunch. From the UK and India, from the public and the private sector, making friends, getting heads together, doing deals. Because if we get our collaborations right today we will bring new jobs, new business and increased prosperity tomorrow.
*Full coverage of the visit on Storify
*Follow on twitter @UKinIndia