Almost three years ago in January 2018, the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, expressed the aspiration to develop Mumbai as a global financial centre, just like New York and London. “Mumbai has the capacity to be an international financial centre and also to fulfil the capability. Tax on financial transactions done by fund managers would be waived off. This provision has been made in the state budget,” Fadnavis said.
After that, in two years, he made enormous efforts to improve the city’s infrastructure, simplify the tax regime, and took many other initiatives to meet the dream. However, the global environment at that time was not very much conducive and the city had to get its basics- all types of infrastructure- right in order to become a global financial centre.
The city got the golden opportunity to become the global financial centre with the Chinese crackdown on Hong Kong- the undisputed financial centre of Asia. But, this time the city does not have Devendra Fadnavis to realize the dream.
As per a report by Nikkei Asian Review, the premier financial newspaper from Japan, the global financial companies are looking at Singapore to develop it as an alternative base after the crackdown on Hong Kong. Many companies which used to base their chief executive officers in Hong Kong will now base them in Singapore. “Barings joins Deutsche Bank in looking to Singapore as alterative base,” reads the report titled ‘finance leads Hong Kong’s first business exodus in 11 years.
Had the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi created a conducive environment for the companies to flourish, they would have preferred moving to Mumbai instead of Singapore. But the MVA government is more concerned with petty issues like arrest of critics and journalists instead of focusing on governance.
Read more: Mumbai just had the longest power-cut in decades. Uddhav Thackeray keeps proving his mettle
Mumbai is very strategically located in the middle of West and East, and has a favorable time zone which could help it to become a financial hub. Also, India has some of the finest human capital in the world, thanks to IIMs from where global financial and management consulting businesses hire hundreds of executives every year.
“Mumbai is well acquainted with diversity. It also lies in a convenient time zone between the East and West. Both of these are added assets. Maybe a few strategic reforms at this juncture could turn Hong Kong’s loss into Mumbai’s gain,” reads an opinion article published by Livemint in July this year. But, the question is, in the absence of a reformative CM like Devendra Fadnavis, who would carry those reforms?
Fadnavis envisioned two big buildings to facilitate the move of global financial business to Mumbai. “We need to build two iconic buildings in the Bandra Kurla complex (BKC) for attracting investors across the globe. We will take every effort to make Mumbai a global financial centre,” said Fadnavis in January 2018.
The Uddhav Thackeray government has put all those reforms and infrastructure projects that were envisioned on hold, and even stalled the ongoing ones. The Mumbai Metro Rail project is being delayed due to shifting the metro shed; the hyperloop project was cancelled, coastal road project is also stalled; the deadline of Metro train is being delayed 5 years due to land acquisition problems- all the projects that would have solved the infrastructure woes of Mumbai are now either being delayed or scrapped altogether by the Uddhav Government.
Read more: Uddhav Thackeray’s report card is out. And it’s terrible
The life of the people of Mumbai was set to change for better and it could have become a global financial centre- its current rank among global financial centres is 35- after the exodus of businesses from Hong Kong, but the Uddhav government has some other plans.