GANDHINAGAR, India (Reuters) – When he was chief minister of Gujarat in 2011, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked off an ambitious project to develop a financial hub in the style of Singapore or Dubai.
People walk past buildings under construction at the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT) at Gandhinagar, Gujarat, March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Amit Dave
The developers were tasked with transforming an expanse larger than New York’s Central Park into a city with more than 100 skyscrapers supporting more than 1 million jobs – all within a decade.
Nearly eight years later, Gujarat International Finance Tec-City, or GIFT City, supports only 9,000 jobs and only about 3 million of its 62 million square feet of planned development have been built, according to documents from the company’s current presentations to investors reviewed by Reuters, and interviews with GIFT officials. Three million square feet are under construction.
Despite efforts by the Modi government over the past five years to offer tax and regulatory concessions, and a big push to get banks and brokerages into GIFT, the project remains far short of expectations. GIFT’s future is uncertain, with its main partner in financial trouble over soured bets in other projects.
The lack of development and job creation at GIFT, critics say, reflects one of Modi’s challenges as a whole as he begins a second term in office.
Critics contend GIFT is a high-profile example of some of Modi’s ill-conceived and over-ambitious initiatives. They note demonetisation – Modi’s move in 2016 to ban all high-value currency notes then circulating – is another big example