Crucial phase

Published : Feb 15, 2008 00:00 IST

At a gear manufacturing facility of M.M. Gears. - S. SIVA SARAVANAN

At a gear manufacturing facility of M.M. Gears. - S. SIVA SARAVANAN

At a gear

IN view of the massive transformation that Coimbatore is going through, the year 2008 will be a crucial one for the textile city. D. Balasundaram, president of the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Coimbatore, Rajesh B. Lund, managing director, Srivari Infrastructure Private Limited, and C. Muthusami, president of the Coimbatore District Small Industries Association, are unanimous that the city should get its act together to build sound infrastructure.

Coimbatore needs substantial improvement in infrastructure in the power supply, road, water supply, housing and communication sectors. This is where we need to catch up in 2008, Balasundaram, who is also chairman of Coimbatore Capital (P) Limited and CPC (P) Limited, said.

A key problem facing the city is housing. While apartments are an emerging market, the middle class is unable to afford them. Not only have land prices gone up, the prices of cement and sand have spiralled. Balasundaram said: These have pushed up the cost of construction enormously. The city should be made affordable for people to live in. That can happen only when infrastructure improves.

Lund, whose company is currently executing seven residential projects in prime locations, admitted that land prices had gone up sharply. But he was confident that the market would stabilise in 2008. The future looks promising for all sectors of the economy in Coimbatore 2008 is going to be crucial, he said.

Balasundaram said that although District Planning Committees had been set up as recommended by the Eleventh Plan document, the government had not complied with the spirit of the Plans requirements. Non-officials are expected to form 50 per cent of the committees. But the expertise of these non-officials had never been sought, he said.

Ward committees in the Coimbatore Municipal Corporation have not been constituted. Their functioning has been undermined by bureaucrats, Balasundaram alleged. According to him, the elected councillors would not involve the public in the ward committees fearing that their powers would be eroded. The city and the State will benefit from the participation of the public in the decision-making process. The government should use the expertise that is available with non-officials free of cost, he suggested.

The textile and engineering industries, small industrial units and the tea estates in the neighbouring Nilgiris district hold the key to Coimbatores economy. The textile industry forms the bedrock of the citys well-being. Most of these industries export a substantial part of their production.

What affected these industries between October 2006 and end 2007 was the depreciation in the value of the dollar by 15 per cent. We never built 15 per cent margin in our quotation. As a result, export was affected. Yarn and engineering exporters suffered, Balasundaram said.

Besides, the Centre followed a policy of exporting raw materials in a way that the industry found difficult to criticise. For instance, China imported cotton and iron ore from India. But the Chinese were able to buy cotton from Punjab at a cheaper price than the textile industries in Coimbatore. Again, iron ore was being exported although the steel industry in India opposed it.

The power situation in Tamil Nadu turned grim in 2007. Load shedding without prior notice, some industrialists said, not only led to loss of production but affected the health of machinery. It takes several hours for the machinery in the yarn and textile industries to start up when the supply is resumed.

Agriculture was becoming a difficult proposition in the vicinity of Coimbatore as farm workers preferred to work in industries. Industrial units in Coimbatore and the nearby hosiery town of Tiruppur send buses to villages to pick up and drop these workers. Balasundaram emphasised that a great opportunity presented itself to Tamil Nadu and Coimbatore with the Eleventh Plan anticipating a growth rate of 9 per cent and the Twelfth Plan aiming at a growth rate of 12 per cent. We have a great opportunity in this. We should not miss it, he said.

T.S. Subramanian
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