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'Indian Americans can invest more in India'

india Updated: Sep 25, 2007 13:43 IST
Liz Mathew
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The role of Indian Americans in the country's economic growth has been below potential and much of the inward remittances in India have come from the Gulf, Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi has said.

"If you look at the diaspora's investments in India, the success is even lower," Ravi told the Mini-Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), co-hosted by his ministry and the Confederation Indian Industry (CII) here as part of the Incredible India@60 event.

The cumulative foreign direct investment (FDI) into India by NRIs was $8 billion and constituted less than five per cent of the total FDI in the country, he told the gathering at the packed Pier Sixty in Manhattan.

Of the $23 billion in foreign remittances from overseas Indians last fiscal year, nearly half came from just five million NRIs in the Gulf. "Clearly, this is a potential area for all of you to consider," Ravi said.

"Given the profile of the Indian-American community, your investment is far short of your potential."

He added quickly: "Let me hasten to add that I use the term investment in its broader sense. I am aware the vast majority of you are professionals. Inward investment is not the only way you contribute to our country's progress.

"I invite you to contribute in terms of knowledge and skills, ideas, individual initiatives and community action."

According to the minister, the newly established Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre - which will not be a profit trust - in partnership with CII would help the diaspora to invest and benefit from India. "It will serve as a one stop shop."

He said overseas Indians worldwide, who he termed brand ambassadors of the country, produced economic output of about $400 billion.

"The Indian diaspora of 30 million is estimated to generate an annual income equal to about 30 per cent of India's GDP," he said.

"Yet India's growth story so far has been driven primarily by the energy and enterprise of domestic companies."

The US and Canada are home to sizeable Indian populations - with 2.3 million in the former and over 800,000 in the latter.

Ravi said the median income of the Indian American family was over $62,000, far above that of all American families. There are over 200,000 Indian American millionaires and 45 percent in the work force are employed as professionals.

He used comics to illustrate his point. Ashok in Dilbert and Raj Patel in Archie comics were characters who illustrated how Indians had "captured the popular imagination of America".

Ravi reminded the diaspora that it was the ideal time for them to forge a strong partnership between India and its diaspora.

The event also featured a daylong session on "Engaging Diaspora: The Way Forward".

Those who took part at the event included Indian Ambassador to the US Ronen Sen, Knowledge Commission chief Sam Pitroda, Overseas Indian Affairs Secretary Nirmal Singh and CII president Sunil Bharti Mittal.