Friday, September 22, 2006

Investing in Bihar

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had promised to bring in the winds of change in Bihar and his wish of putting Bihar back on track seems to be coming true.

In a first step of sorts, Ratan Tata visited Patna today (Sept 21), a big step in itself given the troubled ties the Tata's have had with the state. However, it is still too early for Nitish Kumar to smile, as only time will tell whether this visit translates into anything concrete.

When he first came to power, Nitish Kumar had said: "We want governance, and we also want to ensure that the new government will start developmental work and put Bihar back on track and we want everyone?s support."

And since then, it has been his constant endeavour to market Bihar and play down its reputation as a place, where muscle power is the only language that works. And after courting big bollywood directors like Prakash Jha, it is now the turn of business bigwigs. With Ratan Tata visiting the state after a personal invite from Nitish Kumar and raising hopes that after years of isolation, India?s biggest business house will look at Bihar again i.e. apart from its legacy in Jamshedpur, the TATA's have stayed away from the state.

Interestingly, Tata's are expected to be the first of many. It is learnt that Anand Mahindra is also expected to look at investing in the state.

However, for Nitish Kumar getting the men to his state is just the first step. He has to do serious work to raise the status of Bihar as an investment destination.

According to the World Bank report, Bihar is rated as India's poorest state and Bihar's per capita income ranks at the bottom of national income indices. To add to its woes, the state's industrial output is less than half the national average.

It's a tough task, however, for the past few months, Bihar politicians seem to be making news for their sharp business acumen. After all, if Lalu Prasad could turn around the fortunes of sagging Indian Railways, is it wrong for his biggest competitor to hope to turnaround the fortunes of Bihar, and for once, the state is hoping competition pays.
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