India's Minister for Roads and Transport Kamal Nath said in Toronto that the next decade will be the "decade of infrastructure" in India and invited Canadian investors to participate in it.
Speaking at a dinner gala by the Canada-India Business Council in Toronto on Tuesday night, Kamal Nath said infrastructure was the buzzword globally and India offers great opportunities for investors.
"Whether you look at East Asia, the US or Africa, the stress is on reinvestment in infrastructure - that is what will generate economic activity.''
Kamal Nath said, "If the last decade was the decade of IT in India, the new decade will be the decade of infrastructure. India faces the biggest deficit in infrastructure, with national highways accounting for just two percent of our total road network.''
Highlighting the government's plans to construct 20 km of roads every day, the minister said India has "embarked on the biggest infrastructure'' project which would need $500 billion in investment. "It is a huge challenge, but we have embarked on it. We have to transform the country.''
Massive investments in rural roads are needed as 70 percent of its people live in rural areas, he said. "That is where (rural areas) India's future growth will come from.''
"We cannot maintain eight percent growth rate unless we bridge the infrastructure gap. As India moves within confines of democracy, we face challenges of growth...how to make this growth touch all Indians. One is virtual India (that you see on the internet) and then there is a real India where 300 million people live on just one dollar a day. Reaching out to this real India is our biggest challenge,'' Kamal Nath said.
Referring to India's high growth rate despite the global downturn, Kamal Nath said, "There was no collapse of the system in India unlike other countries...our banks have given money to the government while governments in other countries gave money to banks (to tide over the crisis).''
Calling upon Canada to become partner in India's infrastructure development, Kamal Nath said economic cooperation will benefit people in both the countries. He said the two countries were working on an economic partnership agreement to boost their trade beyond $5 billion annually.
Summing up his mission here, he said, "In 2007, when I talked about the India story here, Canadians never looked beyond NAFTA (free trade agreement among Canada, the US and Mexico). But after the global crisis, Canadians are now asking questions about India. Last time, I told my story. But this time, I sold my story (to Canadians)."
Earlier, welcoming Kamal Nath to Canada, Stanley Hartt, chairman of the Macquarie Group which has created an India Infrastructure Fund to raise $2 billion for investment in India, said his group will invest in roads, airports, ports, power generation, power transmission and distribution, telecom towers, rail, and other infrastructure-related sectors in India.