The ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala has created at least half the 2.5 million jobs it promised when it came to power in 2016, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Monday.

“We have achieved about 50% success on the manifesto’s job promise. We will achieve the target before the term is over (in 2021)," Vijayan said on the sidelines of an investor summit organized by the state.

Vijayan’s statement assumes significance against the backdrop of the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the centre facing heat for not creating enough jobs ahead of general elections. The party swept to power in 2014 with the promise of creating 10 million jobs annually but has been scrambling to fend off criticism, especially after a leaked National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) report revealed that the unemployment rate spiked to a 45-year high of 6.1% in 2017-18.

Vijayan, however, said he could not back up his claim immediately with data but added that, in general, the state is seeing good reception on investments from startups, information technology (IT) and tourism sector.

After the Left came to power, the state rolled out the red carpet for corporate investment. It launched over 100 initiatives aimed at facilitating investments and recently enacted an ‘omnibus legislation’ by amending seven Acts and 10 rules aimed at ‘simplifying clearance procedures, removing repetitive and redundant regulations and according time bound permits and approvals’.

This was followed by the framing of standard operating procedures for various public departments.

“Unlike other states, land is a big problem for us. We cannot offer big discounts on land purchase to investors. However, we have removed certain bottlenecks that kept investors away from Kerala so far, such as a coordinated effort to stop shutdowns. This is reflected in the arrival of companies such as Nissan in Kerala," said Vijayan.

The Kerala chief minister admitted that the state is reeling from a shortage of funds to rebuild from recent floods, which wrecked havoc and caused a loss of at least 30,000 crore. The state is also bothered by a return trend seen in Gulf emigrants, whose remittances account for almost one third of the economy, he said. “We want Gulf returnees to invest in Kerala. Their expertise can be used in different ways," he said.