Tecom vacates their Smart City Kochi Project office

The Tecom Monday vacated the office space at Vazhakkala here.

Tecom CEO Fareed Abdul Rahman in person handed over the deed to the village office here. The deed had to be registered since Tecom is a foreign company.

Smart City director board meet Today
The board of directors of Smart City is scheduled to meet here Monday evening.

The meeting assumes significance in the wake of government deadline to Smart City authorities regarding the project. There are indications that Tecom officials might hold unofficial talks with the state government.

It is six years since the Smart City entered the minds of Keralites as a dream project, but the wrangling by the state government and the Tecom over freehold rights ensured that the project did not take off.

Smart City Dubai had last week day said it had not asked for anything outside the framework agreement signed with the Kerala government.

"Freehold is a contractual obligation, not a favour done to us. Moreover, the freehold is asked for Smart City Kochi, an Indian company registered under the Indian companies act. We are not asking for anything which is not in the framework agreement," a statement from Smart City said.


Next Smartcity Kochi Directors Meeting decided on June 28, 2010.
Freehold land not charity, but a right: Smart City CEO
The government of Kerala doesn’t have the authority to issue deadlines on the Smart City project, Dubai Internet City CEO Fareed Abdul Rahman said Thursday.

The government should first fulfill its responsibility by meeting the conditions in the agreement.

If that is met, the Smart City is ready to go ahead with the construction as stipulated in the agreement. Freehold land is not a generosity of the government, it is a right according to the agreement, he said

The Freehold condition had come to effect from the first agreement itself. There are still unsolved issues regarding the project, the company said. "It is up to the government to find solutions to the issues. Why did it take two years for the government to send a letter", the CEO asked.


SmartCity Kochi Crucial Board Meeting on March 29

SmartCity Kochi Crucial Board Meeting on March 29 A crucial Board meeting of the SmartCity Kochi project will be held on March 29, 2010 in Kochi. The meeting of the SmartCity Board will have representatives from Tecom, the promoters of the SmartCity Kochi project and the Kerala Government.

Fareed Abdulrahman, CEO of SmartCity, is also expected to attend the Board Meeting. The meeting is being held in Kochi at the instance of Tecom though the Government wanted to have it in Trivandrum.

This Board meeting comes in the backdrop of the Kerala Government having informed Tecom, its decision to decline their demand for 12% freehold rights for part of the land acquired for the project. The Government had recently made its position clear in a letter to Tecom and had also said that it cannot wait indefinitely for the project to begin. The grant of 12 % freehold rights to SmartCity has been the contentious issue between the State Government and Tecom. The last Board meeting on December 23, 2009 in Kochi had turned out to be inconclusive with differences of opinion continuing between the two partners.

Meanwhile in another development, Fareed Abdulrahman, CEO, SmartCity has announced that their SmartCity Malta will open in the third quarter of 2010. SmartCity Malta is a similar project being developed by SmartCity in partnership with the Government of Malta with a minimum investment outlay of US $ 300 million. SmartCity is a joint venture between TECOM Investments and Sama Dubai.

No freehold rights for Tecom: CM
The Kerala Government has informed Tecom, the Dubai-based promoters of the SmartCity Kochi project that it is declining their demand for 12% freehold rights for part of the land acquired for the project. The Government had made its position clear in a letter to Tecom authorities and have also said that it cannot wait indefinitely for the project to begin.

Chief Minister Shri V S Achuthanandan, while briefing the media after the Cabinet meeting yesterday said, "They are indefinitely delaying the project, making fresh demands outside the framework of the original agreement. Their demand for freehold on part of the land, which will give them sales rights, is not acceptable to the government". The company's financial position appeared to be shaky and that could be the reason for making new demands, he also added.

The fate of the proposed Rs.1,500 crore IT park in Kochi to be built by Dubai-based developer Smart City Dubai will be decided at a board of directors meeting later this month. The Kerala government is adamant that no freehold rights over the project would be given to the builder as such a clause does not exist in the original agreement between the two parties.

The meeting will take place in Kochi on March 29. 'This meeting is not an unscheduled one; instead this date was fixed at the last board meeting held last year. But the meeting is a crucial in light of the recent developments,' said a Smart City Dubai official, who did not wish to be identified.

Smart City Dubai had signed an agreement in 2007 to build a mega IT project on a 246 acre plot in Kochi, providing about 90,000 jobs. It has been demanding 12 percent freehold rights in the project area. Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan Wednesday said there is no freehold demand in the agreement. The developer had been told this could not be met.
Even as Finance Minister Thomas Isaac reiterated the State government's commitment to execute the proposed SmartCity Kochi project during his budget presentation, more than 50 families relocated for the project at Edachira are on the warpath alleging apathy on the part of authorities in providing the promised basic amenities on the land allotted for their rehabilitation.

“We were moved out in November 2008 and were promised power, water, and road on the rehabilitation land within six months. But till now we have got only electricity. If no steps are taken to fulfill the promises, we would stage a dharna in front of Infopark from the end of this month,” said P.A. Pareethukunju of the action council for the families displaced by the SmartCity project.

If things are not set straight before the onset of monsoon, life would become difficult, he said. He also said that the anganwadi promised on the land was yet to materialise. Only the land for the facility has been measured and demarcated but nothing more has happened, Mr. Pareethukunju said.

District Collector M. Beena, however, told the Hindu that the road could not be laid as Infopark, which was to bear the cost, found the estimate of Rs. 45 lakh given by the Public Works Department on the higher side and insisted on approval from the State government. Things remain there as of now.

Meanwhile, the Thrikkakkara panchayat had come forward to lay the road at a much reduced rate.

“We have asked the panchayat authorities to give it in writing and to submit an estimate,” Dr. Beena said.

As for water connectivity, she said that the deposit was made with the Kerala Water Authority and pipeline was laid only for the occupants of the land to find it insufficient. The demand is now for laying bigger pipes, the Collector said. Mr. Pareethukunju said that majority of the 58 families relocated had moved on to the rehabilitation land. He said that many officials and political leadership were oblivious of the incomplete state of affairs regarding rehabilitation.

“We are planning to take up the issue shortly under the Sutharya Kerala programme so that the Chief Minister is made aware of the problem,” he said.

He felt that the Chief Minister was under the impression that all promises had been fulfilled long back.

The rehabilitation package for the SmartCity Kochi evictees was considered a model one at the time it was declared.

Each family was given 6 cents of land each and those who had given up more land had the option to buy another five cents at the same price at which their land was bought for the project.

Basic amenities were also promised on the land. Via
Kerala Finance Minister T M Thomas Issac on Friday announced that the government would take measures to create one lakh (100,000) job opportunities for the IT sector in the state.

He also said that the Smart City project would be implemented in two stages at the Infopark and an amount of Rs 50 crore (Rs 500 million) has been sanctioned for the first year, the minister said.

The minister also said that the Kannur airport would be implemented in the manner of Cochin International Airport with public-private participation. The government will have 26% equity in the project.

Kerala budget taxes liquor, proposes sops for tourism

The Kerala government's budget for 2010-11 also proposed to extend the ambit of welfare schemes like employment guarantee and food subsidy, reduce taxes on tourism, beer and wine and impose fresh ones on direct to home services and jewellery shop owners.

While continuing with most of the schemes under the Rs 10,000-crore (Rs 100 billion) stimulus package unveiled last year during the slowdown, Isaac in his budget announced fresh sops for the crisis-hit tourism sector by slashing the luxury tax.

Luxury tax on tourism, a major revenue earner, was brought down to 7.5 per cent and 12.5 per cent in different categories from 10 per cent and 15 per cent.

Among other highlights of the budget are the extension of the Rs 2-per-kg-rice scheme to labourers of the unorganized sector from June and the employment guarantee scheme to the urban areas. The government has earmarked Rs 500 crore (Rs 5 billion) for the food subsidy plan that will benefit about 3.5 million families.

Possibly with an eye on the assembly polls next year, the budget also left VAT rates untouched but proposed a 10 per cent hike in tax on liquor other than beer and wine.

The budget, showing a cumulative deficit of Rs 577.09 crore (Rs 5.77 billion), also sharply brought down the stamp duty on registration of real estate property as a sop to recession-hit construction sector.

Stating that Kerala cannot get rid of the revenue deficit by 2014-15 as suggested by the 13th Finance Commission, Issac said it would be Rs 3,629.55 crore (Rs 36.295 billion) for the year, about 11.64 per cent of the state's revenue.

Tax on beer and wine was slashed by 10 per cent, but that on other liquors was increased by 10 per cent.

The budget also sought to rationalise stamp duty and increased lifetime tax to 8 per cent for new motor cars and omni buses for private use, where engine capacity is 1500 cc and above.

A lifetime tax of 6 per cent ad valorem on all types of construction equipment vehicles was also imposed.

As the steep rise in gold prices had not been adequately reflected in the compounded tax, the budget re-fixed tax rates increase payable by the Jewellery shop owners.

Direct to Home service was brought under the tax net, with a levy of one per cent tax on gross charges paid by customers.

To protect small-scale cable TV operators, it exempted those having less than 5,000 connections from luxury tax.

The minister also sanctioned Rs 412 crore (Rs 4.12 billion) for heavy industries, Rs 240 crore (Rs 2.40 billion) for small and traditional sectors, agriculture projects would get Rs 622 crore (Rs 6.22 billion), the grand Kerala Shopping Festival will get Rs 25 crore (Rs 250 million) and the coconut development project will receive Rs 30 crore (Rs 300 million).

Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan today all most scripted the future of Smart City stating that IT sector in the state is safe even without the project. The CM took on the opposition for trying to give a picture that Smart City is everything regarding IT in the state. Achuthanandan continued his prior stand that his government has taken corrective measures over the wrong doings of the past UDF government.

The CM informed that the government has made all moves to ensure 10,000 crore worth investment in IT sector.

Meanwhile Oommen Chandy, opposition leader accused the government of failing to keep all promises including Smart City.


The SmartCity