Wednesday, 10 December 2014

S'pore to help build southern Indian city from scratch

Development, 10 times the size of S'pore, will be a state's new capital
By Nirmala Ganapathy, India Correspondent, In New Delhi, The Straits Times, 9 Dec 2014

IN ONE of its most ambitious urban planning ventures to date, Singapore will help design and develop a world-class city area in southern India. The city, which will sprout across an area where 17 villages currently sit, will serve as the new capital of Andhra Pradesh, whose Chief Minister has tried to make the state an IT hub.

The state is poised to lose current capital Hyderabad after the province was split earlier this year. It has asked Singapore to help it build a spanking new one.

The development, the single largest infrastructure project attempted by Singapore in India, will take shape in three or more stages. There will be a master plan for 7,325 sq km of a state capital region - 10 times Singapore's own size. The project will have a 125 sq km core and an 8 sq km development where Singaporean companies will build up utilities.

An agreement was signed yesterday between International Enterprise Singapore and the Infrastructure Corporation of the Andhra Pradesh government to prepare the masterplan and develop the new city.

Singapore will also train Indian government officials in urban development and governance.

"Singapore is delighted to be Andhra Pradesh's partner in masterplanning and developing its new capital city and surrounding region. A good masterplan lays a strong foundation, and its effective implementation, beginning with the seed development, will ensure the city develops sustainably into a vibrant political, economic and cultural centre of the state," said Mr S. Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry.

He was speaking in Hyderabad after witnessing the signing of the agreement, alongside Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister M. Chandrababu Naidu.

The two sides plan to complete the masterplan within six months and Mr Naidu promised a "world- class capital" with uninterrupted power and modern amenities.

Andhra Pradesh is developing a new capital city, which is expected to cost 1 trillion rupees (S$21.4 billion), after it was bifurcated in June this year and a new state, Telangana, carved out from it.

Hyderabad, among the top 10 Indian cities, will remain a joint capital but eventually go to Telangana after 10 years.

Mr Naidu was chief minister of the undivided state of Andhra Pradesh for over a decade starting in 1995. He put Hyderabad on the global IT map, inviting software majors like Microsoft to set up development facilities.

Ties between Singapore and the state of Andhra Pradesh have continued to be strong, with Mr Naidu travelling to Singapore in November this year to get a first-hand look at the development model and urban planning and governance expertise.

As a part of the plan announced last night, the Centre for Liveable Cities and Singapore Cooperation Enterprise will also help Andhra Pradesh by providing training programmes for officials of the state government.

First phase of Indian city within 5 years
S'pore to help build new Andhra Pradesh capital from the ground up
By Nirmala Ganapathy, India Correspondent, In New Delhi, The Straits Times, 9 Dec 2014

THE truncated southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, which lost its historic Hyderabad city to the newly formed Telangana state, now has an opportunity to build itself a brand new state capital from the ground up.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu - who put Hyderabad on the global information technology map by aggressively wooing software majors like Microsoft and Oracle to set up shop in the city - has promised to create the first phase of the world-class city in place of Hyderabad.

The first phase of the city, which includes government, commercial and residential buildings apart from main roads and sanitation facilities, will be completed within five years.

The new state capital and its surrounding areas, which will be developed with Singapore's help, will come up in the Vijayawada- Guntur region, across 7,325 sq km of what is largely an underdeveloped area.

The area is roughly 10 times the size of Singapore.

More than 17 villages will make way for the development of the new capital city.

While Singapore will be the partner for creating the masterplan for the city, Mr Naidu has announced that companies from Japan are willing to help build it.

The need for Andhra Pradesh to create a new capital came up following the creation of Telangana - the country's 29th and newest state - on June 2 this year.

Under the terms of the split, Telangana will share Hyderabad as its capital city with Andhra Pradesh, which has been given 10 years to develop its own capital.

The decision, which led to protests from Andhra Pradesh, was taken because Hyderabad falls geographically in the Telangana region.

There was even a proposal to turn Hyderabad into a union territory, but that was shot down.

Telangana itself was born after a separatist movement that lasted more than five decades and which sometimes turned violent as people grew resentful that their aspirations were ignored.

Those who lobbied for forming the new state, which includes drought-prone areas, said its development was ignored by the Andhra Pradesh government.

The decision to go ahead with the split was finally taken by the previous national government led by the Congress party - unpopular due to a series of corruption cases and weak leadership - to stem its dwindling popularity in Andhra Pradesh.

Desperate for backing in the south, the Congress hoped the move would push up support for it in the Telangana region during the May general election.

But instead of backing the Congress, voters across the state plumbed for Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief K. Chandrashekar Rao, who had led a 13-year political battle for the split.

In Andhra Pradesh, too, anger over the bifurcation of the state and the loss of Hyderabad city saw the Congress performing poorly.

Since the creation of Telangana, the two states have been operating side by side.

Government buildings in Hyderabad have been divided between the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh administrations and so has the legislative assembly.

This arrangement is set to continue until Mr Naidu creates his own capital and moves out of Hyderabad.

"There are a lot of issues, ranging from governance of Hyderabad to distribution of power and water across the two states.

"This will continue for some time," said Dr Bhaskara Rao of the Delhi-based Centre for Media Studies.

Indian state one step closer to realising dream capital
Andhra Pradesh officials start acquiring land for Singapore-India project
By Nirmala Ganapathy India Correspondent In New Delhi, The Straits Times, 10 Dec 2014

A DAY after inking a deal with Singapore for designing a riverfront capital city, the government of the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh has moved to acquire land for the project.

Officials said the government has started the process to acquire land from around 10,000 landowners to build the capital city along both banks of the Krishna River.

Land acquisition is often the most difficult part of big infrastructure projects in India and the state's swift move underscores the urgency with which it is treating the project.

The new capital will come up on swathes of farm and non-farm land in the Guntur-Vijayawada area of Andhra Pradesh, and will be built from scratch in a unique collaboration between the two countries.

"This is a first of its kind in the country. Building a capital city, the seat of power, is different from building a city," said Dr Parakala Prabhakar, communications adviser to the state government, yesterday. "We have initiated the land pooling and have announced a pretty generous package for farmers. We hope to complete the process in one to two months," he told The Straits Times.

Under the compensation package offered, besides an undisclosed sum of money, farmers will also be entitled to residential and commercial plots in exchange for their land. For instance, farmers owning water-deficient land will get 1,000 square yards (836 sq m) of residential land and 200 square yards of commercial land as compensation for every acre (0.4ha) surrendered.

Andhra Pradesh has been forced to create a new capital after losing Hyderabad, a major Indian city, to the newly created state of Telangana. While the new capital is being built, Hyderabad will be shared by both states for 10 years. The decision, which led to protests from Andhra Pradesh, was taken because Hyderabad falls geographically in the Telangana region.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu hopes to finish the first phase of the project, which includes 8 sq km of the core capital area to be developed by Singapore, ahead of state elections in 2019.

This core will include government offices, residential and commercial complexes, as well as educational institutes.

"Having to build the capital is sad, but it is also an opportunity," Mr Naidu said on Monday. "We are lucky to get that opportunity... I am confident of pooling the required financial resources."

The new city is to be built with funds from the federal government, private money and private-public partnerships.

Federal funds, for instance, will go into building administrative units like government offices and the state assembly building. The new capital city, according to some estimates, will cost one trillion rupees (S$21.4 billion).

The planning and development of the city will be the single largest infrastructure project attempted by Singapore in India.

Singapore will develop the masterplan for 7,325 sq km of a state capital region, a 125 sq km core and an 8 sq km development where Singapore companies will build up utilities.

The masterplan is expected to be ready in six months. "After the masterplan is done we will go into specifics," said Dr Prabhakar.

The Indian media has described the partnership as a move to take Singapore to India.

"Singapore design with local flavours," said a headline in Indian newspaper Deccan Chronicle yesterday, after the signing of the agreement between Singapore and Andhra Pradesh on Monday night to develop the capital city.

A Singapore in the heart of India
By Ravi Velloor Foreign Editor, The Straits Times, 10 Dec 2014

WHEN post-independence India planned its first major new city, it got in a French architect to do the design. Le Corbusier's Chandigarh, with its wide boulevards and neat symmetry, remains one of India's most livable settlements, and has the highest per capita income of the nation's states and federal territories.

The next Indian city that could aspire to Chandigarh's scale and success may well be designed by Singaporeans.

Monday's announcement that IE Singapore will partner Andhra Pradesh to build the southern state a brand new capital promises to be an exciting enterprise for both Singapore and India, and has the potential to take bilateral ties to a new dimension.

It also wipes out, for Singapore, the record of a significant misstep it made nine years ago when Changi Airport Managers and Partners unexpectedly pulled out of the consortium bidding to build the new international airport in New Delhi. Changi's decision was received poorly by New Delhi. The project was finally built on schedule by a group that included Malaysia Airports.

Unlike that decision - partly caused by the Indian government making late changes to the deliverables, which Changi judged to be unrealistic - the comfort levels on this deal are much higher.

For one thing, the Republic and Andhra's dynamic Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu are well known to each other. Indeed, such is the scale of his ambition that Singapore leaders have needed to caution Mr Naidu, who was here last month, to keep his expectations realistic.

Mr Naidu also comes with an impressive track record. Long before Mr Narendra Modi burst on the investment horizon as the development-oriented chief minister of Gujarat state, Mr Naidu was known for his efficient administration of Andhra Pradesh, his penchant for e-governance and his magnificent obsession with the benefits of using IT in government and for job creation.

During his decade-long first tenure as chief minister, which started in 1995, the streets of Andhra Pradesh began to be cleaned up, litterbugs were fined, and the state capital, Hyderabad, now shared with Telangana state, acquired the moniker, Cyberabad. He even flew in Microsoft founder Bill Gates and named a building after him. Now, Singapore firms like Ascendas and RSP Architects do lucrative business in the state.

Mr Naidu lost power after successive droughts in his state that led to suicides by some poor farmers, helping the Congress party in opposition entice votes by casting him as an elitist, uncaring, urban-oriented figure.

Now, he is back in power, albeit as head of a truncated Andhra, after Telangana was split off as a separate province this year.

Second, Mr Naidu is on the same side politically as Mr Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In national polls that ended in May and brought Mr Modi to national power, the BJP and Mr Naidu's Telugu Desam Party won 17 of the 25 parliamentary seats from the state. The alliance, and Mr Naidu's links with Mr Modi, should help iron out any creases that develop between the federal and provincial governments.

There is a third, important element. Unlike in neighbouring Tamil Nadu state, where the rivalry between the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam is deeply bitter, Andhra chief ministers have a record of not undoing the good work done by predecessors.

This means that should Mr Naidu lose power in the next state polls due in 2019, there is a good chance that the next person will not reverse his plans.

Fourth, the people of Andhra are highly gifted. Like Singaporeans, there is much emphasis among them on education, and a stress on maths and science. Household expenditure data from India suggests that Andhra people are among the highest spenders on education.

This is the reason Andhra family names such as Raju, Reddy, Naidu and Prasad show up in large numbers in the ranks of investment banks and technology institutions like Nasa and Google. Indeed, Microsoft's current chief executive Satya Nadella is Hyderabad-born. There is, therefore, much promise in the state.

The capital city project, which will see Singapore planting its flag metaphorically in the heart of India, also bodes well for bilateral ties, which are excellent. Besides, the timing is perfect; India is projected to soon pick up Asia's growth baton as the biggest economies of the region, China and Japan, slow or slide.

Combined with Mr Modi's stated intention to build several smart cities in India, Singapore design companies and a host of other service providers can look for a rich harvest in Asia's third-biggest economy. Already, many condominium developments in India boast "Singapore-style living".

Strategically, as well, Mr Modi has indicated his intention to work closely with Singapore.

Two decades ago, then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong spoke of sparking a "mild India fever". What he could not have guessed then was there would, instead, be a bigger Singapore fever in India.

Andhra Pradesh chief sets the bar high for his state
Grand plans for spanking new capital city and fibre network for all villages
By Nirmala Ganapathy India Correspondent In New Delhi, The Straits Times, 15 Dec 2014

THE Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh has a big dream: to transform the southern state into the Singapore of India.

While critics say Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu is selling an impossible dream to his people, the Chief Minister, who is enjoying his second spell in power, has spent the first six months in government pursuing that goal.

His first overseas visit was to Singapore last month, about two months after he welcomed Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong to Andhra Pradesh.

Last week, Andhra Pradesh signed an agreement with Singapore, which will help it design and develop a new capital city. There will be a masterplan for a 7,325 sq km state capital region - 10 times the size of Singapore. The project will have a 125 sq km core and an 8 sq km development.

Andhra Pradesh, with a population of 50 million, is set to lose its current capital, Hyderabad, to Telangana, which was carved out from it in June to become India's 29th state. Hyderabad will serve as the joint capital for 10 years.

Many politicians would probably have been dismissed for taking on such an ambitious project, but Mr Naidu, 64, has a proven track record in governance.

He is best known for turning Hyderabad into an IT hub during his nine years as chief minister, from 1995. The corporate-friendly and pro-market reform leader actively wooed foreign investors to invest in Hyderabad, and addressed successive World Economic Forum meetings in Davos at a time when other state chiefs were cautious about doing so.

Mr Naidu succeeded in marketing Hyderabad, nicknamed Cyberabad, as a place where IT startups and well-established tech companies could set up shop by cutting bureaucratic red tape and building up infrastructure.

He famously flew Microsoft founder Bill Gates to Hyderabad, with the IT major opening its global development centre there in 1998. Other big names - Oracle, Dell and later Facebook and Google - soon followed.

But the leader of the Telugu Desam Party was thrown out of power in 2004 after a severe drought in his state drove poor farmers to commit suicide. His political opponents used his focus on development to brand him as an urban politician who did not care about rural residents in the state.

After taking office in June this year, Mr Naidu expressed sorrow at the loss of Hyderabad. But those who work with him say he is determined to build a city that will rival Hyderabad and other large metros in India.

Dr Parakala Prabhakar, communications adviser to the Andhra Pradesh government, said: "The state was divided in a very unfair manner and Andhra Pradesh was denied a level playing field. His (Mr Naidu's) objective is that by 2022, the state should be among the top three performing states and, by 2029, be the top performing state."

Besides building a new capital city, the Chief Minister's other top priority is to develop the Polavaram irrigation project, which will provide water for thousands of farmers, Dr Prabhakar said.

"He is on a mission. He works long hours - 16 to 18 hours - every day. He is very, very meticulous and... demands continual reviews of a particular thing," Dr Prabhakar added.

Born to a middle-class farming family in a village in Andhra Pradesh, Mr Naidu was the eldest of four children. He studied in a local school and graduated in 1972 from a university in the temple town of Tirupati. He then did a master's degree in economics.

Mr Naidu, who joined the Congress student wing, plunged full-time into politics. His rise in politics was meteoric.

He was elected to the Andhra Pradesh Assembly in 1978, becoming the youngest legislator at 28 and then, soon afterwards, the youngest minister in charge of technical education in the then Congress government.

As minister, he fostered close ties with Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao, a famous film star turned politician known as NTR, and married one of his daughters in 1980. The couple have a son.

NTR set up the Telugu Desam in 1982 and, in the same year, his star power propelled the party to victory. Mr Naidu left the Congress to join the Telugu Desam, where his rise was equally swift.

But in 1995, he ousted his father-in-law, whose second wife Lakshmi Parvathi was openly nursing political ambitions. He took over the party and replaced NTR as chief minister.

Mr Naidu showed himself to be an able administrator with a key focus on digital technology. He computerised the workings of government, setting up an e-governance platform, putting land and property records online and giving e-mail accounts to all government officials at a time when computers were still not widely used in India.

After he lost power, he spent the next 10 years in opposition, until his state election win in June.

Mr Naidu, who has been a Bharatiya Janata Party ally for years, supported Mr Narendra Modi, who was chief minister of Gujarat before he became Prime Minister in May.

"Naidu is back again. He is stronger," said Delhi-based political analyst Bhaskara Rao, who is himself from Andhra Pradesh. "He is a progressive politician who understands the aspirations of the people. So people have high expectations of him."

In the past six months, he has already laid out an ambitious agenda, including unveiling plans to set up an optical fibre corporation to bring high-speed connectivity to all villages.

Still, it is the new capital city that is expected to be Mr Naidu's showcase project.

"(Andhra Pradesh's) capital is the people's capital. Building it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he tweeted recently.

No comments:

Post a Comment