'India has much to offer'

PHOTO: 'India has much to offer'

Indian Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has urged the Indian diaspora to invest in the country and seize the opportunities that the nation of 1.3 billion people offers.

Mr Chidambaram was speaking on Day 1 of the South Asian Diaspora Convention (SADC) held in Singapore from Nov 21-22. He said no other country in the world requires as much investment in every field as India does. In infrastructure alone, the country's 12th plan, which runs from 2012 to 2017, envisages an investment of US$1 trillion, half of which is expected to come from the private sector.

He highlighted that India can offer the investor a variety of opportunities like "government securities, corporate bonds, mutual funds, infrastructure development funds", along with a clutch of projects in oil and gas sectors "that will welcome strategic investments", besides investments in sectors such as energy, airport, power, manufacturing, etc.

In an emphatic declaration, the finance minister also said that his hope is that more and more Indians will also look at investment opportunities outside the country, which in turn would propel the country's image as a state that promotes and engages in mutually beneficial business and financial opportunities.

Mr Chidambaram's session on Nov 21 was chaired by Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

Mr Chidambaram also stressed the importance of the diaspora to the Indian economy. This diaspora has an estimated wealth of US$1 trillion. He spoke of the various bodies the Indian government has set up to facilitate better interaction and stronger ties with the diaspora like the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs and the Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre (OIFC), set up in 2007 by the government together with the Confederation of Indian Industry to facilitate the investment needs of overseas Indians.

Despite the recent slowdown and fall of the Indian rupee, the Indian finance minister seemed optimistic about the country's growth and development in the coming years. He asked for diaspora involvement with India and urged them to be a part of "an unfolding India story - that would make India the third largest economy in the world by the year 2030".

Meanwhile, in a session titled Cross Border Regulations and Access to Financial Markets, DBS Bank chief executive officer Piyush Gupta urged Indian regulators to reduce red tape which he believed would allow companies to raise capital from overseas markets. He also asked for a relaxation in restrictions on foreign banks' entry into India.

Other speakers at this session were Singapore Exhange chief executive Magnus Bocker, Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) research head S. Narayan and Securities and Exchange Board of India chairman UK Sinha.

The SADC, organised by ISAS, was attended by business leaders and political heads from India and Singapore.

The two days of discourse also featured a literary session where authors like Meira Chand, Tahmima Anam, Nury Vittachi, Romesh Gunesekera and Professor Shirley Chew spoke on the role of diasporic writers in examining the migrant experience.

ISAS also signed a memorandum of understanding with Brookings India, a research organisation, at the SADC. With the signing, ISAS and Brookings India will collaborate on research in areas such as international trade and economics, India-China comparative studies, international relations and India's energy security options.

The two organisations will also work jointly on bilateral seminars, symposiums and panel discussions on regional and global issues.


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