Expressing concern over the difference of opinion between the state and central governments on the agricultural bills, Punjab Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh on Tuesday categorically stated, “We are not against corporates but there has to be a regulation to protect the farmers and the long-standing relationship they have with the Arhtiyas.” Any attempt to do away with this system will not work, he asserted, adding that his government had brought in Bills in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha to negate the impact of the central farm laws and had also taken up the issue with the Prime Minister, the Union Home Minister, among others.“We have to ensure food security, what is plenty today may not be there tomorrow,” he pointed out, adding that while India was currently exporting wheat it did not mean that the surplus foodgrains will remain forever. The country has to keep its reserves, he said at the virtual inaugural session of the USA-Punjab Investors’ Roundtable 2020.Appreciating the growing interest of American companies in Punjab, which contributes 3% to India’s GDP with just 1.5% of the country’s land area, the Chief Minister said earlier that that while it was predominantly an agricultural state and home to India’s Green Revolution, his government wanted agriculture to become more high-value now, with greater growth in the overseas market. Inviting the investors to enjoy the state’s unique business-friendly culture that promoted entrepreneurship, he pointed out that USA was the top export destination (USD 685 million amounting to approx. 12% of Punjab’s total exports in 2019-20) for Punjab-based companies. At the outset, the Chief Minister congratulated the US on the completion of its electoral process and on the election of Joe Biden and Kamla Harris as President and Vice President elect, respectively. He hoped this would usher in a new era of cooperation and friendship between the the US and Punjab.
Underlining the role played by the large and vibrant Punjabi NRI population in the US, the Chief Minister said they were working hard to bring success to their countries, with Taranjit Singh Sandhu, currently serving as the Indian Ambassador to the US, a prime example of the synergy that exists between USA & Punjab.Noting that Punjab was the preferred landing place for several American and other foreign investors coming to India, the Chief Minister pointed out that Pepsi and Walmart started their Indian operations at Punjab, and more than 30 American firms, such as Amazon, Walmart, Quark, Cargill, Tyson, Schreiber, Pepsi, Coca Cola currently have operations in Punjab. Referring to the sweeping changes made by his government in the industrial and business policy, the Chief Minister said it was an all-encompassing policy that provides attractive incentives to Large units, MSMEs and Start-ups across both, manufacturing and service sectors. His government had honoured its policy commitments and worked to ensure a steady policy regime with Transitioning clauses over each policy shift to ensure stability for investors across government transitions, he stressed. He also listed out other measures undertaken by his government to promote investment and improve the business climate further, including enactment of the Punjab Right to Business Act 2020 to allow MSMEs to set up in the State based solely on self-certification that is valid for 3.5 years.Invest Punjab (Punjab Bureau of Investment Promotion) is one of its kind with its model of “Unified Regulator”, the Chief Minister noted, disclosing that as many 66+ services from 12+ departments can be availed at this single-window service portal. The CEO PBIP is vested with the power to grant state level clearances, he said, adding that there is an emphasis on equal incentives to expansion and new units in the new policy, which also provides unique police incentives, such as GST reimbursement and liberal employment subsidy (with no domicile restriction).Referring to the gender neutrality prevailing in Punjab’s industry, the Chief Minister noted that 24 hours shifts are allowed in the state for both men and women for all types of industries – manufacturing & service sectors.Later, in response to a question on the Sports industry in the state, Captain Amarinder said Punjab’s industry is largely constituted of MSMEs. Punjab ranks 1st in India in production as well as exports of bicycle and bicycle components, along with 29% share in India’s Tractor production and ranks 2nd in export of Tractors from India. Punjab contributes to 25% of India’s secondary steel market, No. 1 in Hand tools & Machine tools production in India, he noted. He pointed to the development of a Cycle Valley that was in progress and would help further scale up growth in the sector.Taranjit Singh Sandhu, India’s ambassador to the United States, said the lives of people across the globe had changed significantly since the pandemic, with the world becoming a reality.
Pointing out that both India and US thrive on technology, he said he was encouraging US investors to consider Punjab, which was India’s pride in more ways than one, as their next destination. He cited the growth in Punjab’s food, woollen, stitching machine, bicycle production, sports equipment sectors, among others, and pointed to the state’s excellent economic growth rate of 10% in the last decade. There was immense scope for expansion into education, food procession and education sectors, etc, he added. The envoy also underlined the immense contribution of Punjabis to the US economy, which he said was well known.Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan said the state leadership’s endeavour was to attract investment by offering to investors what they were looking for. Total investment in the state in the past three years had been more than USD 9 million, she said, adding that ease of business was being implemented in the state in the practical sense. The state, which was the original Green Revolution source in India and was even now its food bowl, was looking at rapid industrialisation, especially in auto, food processing, IT, start-ups, cycle industries, she said. Pointing to the excellent air and road connectivity in the state, she said the government was now moving towards automatic approvals and deemed approvals to make the eco system even more conducive and accessible for investors. She appreciated the role of the in bringing the two sides together on the investment forum.Kickstarting the summit, Mukesh Agnihotri, President & CEO, USISPF, spoke about the investment potential offered by Punjab for US companies, saying that the ease of business and transparency promoted by the state government was yielding results and the feedback received from investor and business community was extremely positive.In his concluding remarks, Alok Shekhar, Industry Secretary, Punjab, said the state was home to many US brands, several of which had expanded operations significantly in the past three years. He urged the US to set up a Trade Centre in Mohali to further promote collaborations.