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Kerala Looks Ahead Conclave Emphasises that the State has Built the Capacity

In Kerala
February 06, 2021

The galaxy of thinkers — Nobel Prize-winners, leading industrialists, scientists, and other experts — who participated in the three-day Kerala Looks Ahead (KLA) Conference and Consultation, organised by the Kerala State Planning Board, made a strong case that Kerala is poised for the next great economic transformation.

“The conference has stimulated national and international discussions between scholars and experts in major areas and many suggestions and new ideas have emerged from it,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in his concluding address at the conclave.

The three-day online Conference, inaugurated by the Chief Minister and held from February 1 to 3, had 22 sessions covering nine themes: modernising agriculture, fisheries and animal resources; new directions in information technology (IT); modern skills and employability; e-governance; exploring new and sustainable industrial possibilities; revamping higher education, research, and international education collaboration; and chalking out new avenues for tourism. There were also special sessions on fiscal federalism and development finance and local governments.

“Never before has such an eminent gathering been organised at a virtual event in Kerala. The proceedings evolved in the event will be consolidated and they will be included in the 14th Five-Year Plan,” said Planning Board Vice Chairperson Prof V K Ramachandran at a press conference here on Saturday.

Commenting on Tourism sector, Dr Venu V, Member Secretary, Planning Board, said, “As per global reports, international tourism will be back on track only by 2024. So, tactically, we have to concentrate on domestic tourism and encourage initiatives like Responsible Tourism (RT).”

Regarding the future strategy in health sector in the post-Covid-19 scenario, Dr B. Ekbal, Member, Planning Board, through video conference, said that the Health Department is planning a global conference on health sector.

More than 190 speakers from 11 countries participated in the Kerala Looks Ahead meet. They included two Nobel Laureates, India’s leading industrialists, a World Food Prize winner, the Chief Scientist of WHO, senior representatives of international IT businesses, senior national and international scholars, scientists, technologists, thinkers and experts. Experts from the Government of India, ILO, WHO, and other national and international bodies participated. Ministers and administrators of the Government of Kerala participated and took a keen interest in the proceedings.

Other participants in the meet included senior government officials, scholars, academicians, industry bodies, farmers’ organisations, local government representatives, heads of institutions, organisations and youth.

Delivering the keynote address at the inaugural session, Nobel Laureate and Professor at Columbia University, Prof. Joseph E Stiglitz said that competent government institutions, competent administration, participatory democracy and decentralisation, reliance on science, and the continued importance given to planning had contributed to the success of Kerala. He emphasised the importance of planning, and that government leadership working with the private sector and civil society is important for addressing future challenges.

In a landmark address in the final session, Nobel Laureate Prof Amartya Sen, who “wished he could be in Kerala at this time,” said that Kerala’s “reliance on humanity, reliance on reasoning and reliance on public discussion were central assets that Kerala would use in the future.”

At the special industrial session, industry leaders, including Ratan Tata, Azim Premji, Anand Mahindra, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, M A Yusuff Ali, Kris Gopalakrishnan, B Ravi Pillai and Azad Moopen endorsed Kerala’s efforts in sustainable industrial development and identified focus sectors for the state.

Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the WHO, pointed out that the health outcomes in Kerala were comparable to the highest in the world. Turning to challenges, she called for developing the public health system further, building institutional capacity, looking beyond curative care to prevention and health promotion and creation of a foresight unit to understand health challenges of the future.

The session on modernizing agriculture focused on the need for rapid increase in productivity and reducing the yield gap by application of new technologies like genome editing and nanotechnology. The session on animal resources discussed possibilities for diversification, value addition and establishment of milk powder factories.

The conference highlighted the important role of technology in building industries of the future, including those described as Industry 4.0. Interactions among universities (and research institutions), industry and the government will be crucial.

The session on modern skill upgradation emphasised on adoption of best practices in the world. Experts from South Korea offered policy suggestions on the “High Touch High Tech” (HTHT) approach in education that includes transformation of mass standardisation to mass personalised education and the increased application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a method of learning. It also discussed systems of vocational educational systems in Europe and international best practices in the field.

Kerala needs to achieve higher academic standards at par with global standards, and international collaboration of higher education institutions, they suggested.

The session on IT underscored the need to promote its policy and revising it suitably, especially in specific sectors, keeping pace with relevant developments.

The session on e-Governance had a focus on three thematic areas: Citizen access to services and empowerment; Decision support systems and analytics; and Legal and policy dimensions.

The State Planning Board will compile the learnings in different sessions of the Conference that can be incorporated in future policy of the Government.