India woos Arab capital for infrastructure

April 18th, 2008 - 3:37 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 18 (IANS) Arab investment to India is “long overdue” and would be warmly welcomed by government and business alike in this country, India’s External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said here Friday. “An expansion of investment footprint of Arab countries in India is long overdue and would be most warmly welcomed by government and business alike,” Mukherjee, who begins an official visit to Saudi Arabia Saturday, told the India-Arab Investment Projects Conclave here.

He told the conclave, co-hosted by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci), that India particularly needed capital from the cash-rich region to invest in its infrastructure, ranging from transportation to energy.

Chief executives of over 100 companies from 13 Arab nations are participating in the conclave, being organised by a new initiative of the industry lobby called the “Indo-Arab Economic Forum”.

Stating that the country needed an estimated $500 billion towards infrastructure over the next few years, the minister said the nation’s growth depended largely on “how we handle investments in infrastructure and remove bottlenecks”.

For that, promised “speedy and faster decisions” from his government in clearing all investments projects ranging from railways, seaports, airports, shipping and transport corridors to telecom and energy.

“The most important opening for the future is the chance for investible capital on one side to combine virtuously with the capacity and experience on the other side,” he said.

Earlier, the minister highlighted the three macro-economic challenges facing the country that needed urgent attention - farm productivity, energy security and teaching skills to the rising Indian young population.

On agricultural productivity, he noted that while increased food security had been “one of our greatest successes”, India was “not immune to occasional global imbalances, especially of the kind that we are seeing at the moment”.

Similarly, he said that global oil prices, which are now over 100 dollars a barrel, are a “drag on our resources that could otherwise have gone for more productive purposes”.

“Our aim is to enter into long-term arrangements for guaranteed supplies of energy,” he said, adding simultaneous efforts were also being made in the area of renewable energies and new technologies.

“Civil nuclear cooperation with various countries will help in achieving energy security objectives,” he said, adding investment in education and skill-building will also be crucial as India will emerge as a major contributor to the global workforce being a country of young people.

“For meeting these challenges, India needs capital,” he said. “Our guests from the Arab world would be aware that many of the countries they come are not only flush with funds, but also have massive capacity to invest in India”.

Mukherjee also highlighted the role of the 4.5 million Indian expatriates in the Arab region and said they had acquired a “wealth of experience in infrastructure construction projects which is invaluable”.

He said an Indian delegation led by the Planning Commission Deputy Chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia will head for Saudi Arabia early May and that he himself was travelling to Riyadh Saturday on an official two-day visit.

The Saudi Ambassador to India and Dean of Arab diplomatic corps, Saleh M. Al-Ghamdi, said that there was need to think “beyond trade” and look at avenues available for “two-way investment”.

He said the economic vibrancy in the Arab world and India provided a ripe ground to raise the level of engagement and welcomed Indian investors to the region. He said Saudi Arabia alone had given 190 licenses to Indian companies.

Similarly, Sudan’s Minister for Investment Salman Sulieman Al Safi called for Indian business houses to tap new sectors, instead of only Oil and Gas and invited investment in mining and fisheries.

According to the organisers, come of the major sectors in India that have wooed Arab capital include infrastructure, with $112 billion, special economic zone ($12 billion), food processing ($900 million and realty ($700 million).

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