NEW DELHI: With the government facing flak for not creating adequate number of jobs, PM Narendra Modi and his core team of economic policymakers got down to preparing an action plan on the issue on Saturday . One of the key themes emerging is to focus on an export-led, port-driven strategy, akin to the one followed by China, especially when labour is more expensive across the border and manufacturers are looking to shift to lower cost destinations.

Sources told TOI that the NITI Aayog has strongly pitched for mega coastal economic zones to drive India’s export-led growth strategy and create thousands of jobs. In a presentation, the panel’s vicechairman Arvind Panagariya pointed to the experience of Japan, South Korea and China and argued how exports played a key role in sustained rapid growth by these three Asian giants and made a strong case for creating these mega zones to help India win the exports game in world markets.

The Modi government, which has completed two years, is scrambling to create millions of jobs for the youth entering the workforce. The idea is to build these zones along with the Sagarmala project which aims to modernise the country ports.

NDA was voted in on the plank of boosting growth and creating jobs. But two consecutive years of drought have dented those ambitions as the farm sector has slowed. The slowdown in the construction industry has also hurt jobs.

To start with, the government could look at setting up the zones on the Andhra coast and Gujarat. The idea is to limit these zones to two or three and create clusters around them. This would also help set up new cities and boost demand as well. The view which is emerging is that depending on the domestic market may not help the country achieve its ambition of a sustained 8-10% growth.

The presentation, sources said, pointed to the fact that India, with its large labour force, is in an advantageous position to benefit from the slowdown in China and could tap into the demand from global firms eying alternative manufacturing countries with large and steady supply of labour.

Earlier, the Aayog had said large firms are missing in employment generating sectors such as apparel, footwear, electronic and electrical products. Locating these zones near the coast would help attract large companies who are keen on getting a large chunk of the export market.