Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to hard sell India as an investment destination for ASEAN nations on Saturday, saying his government had launched a second wave of economic reforms that had made the country a “land of immense opportunities”.
Addressing the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit hours after his arrival in the Malaysian capital, Modi said the ASEAN economies had contributed to Asia’s resurgence and that it was now India’s turn to do its bit.
India, he said, had launched the second wave of structural reforms in agriculture, housing and transport to revitalise the flow of investments.
“We are trying to further open up the economy and introduce an element of predictability and stability in taxation system,” he said.
“Winds do take time to cross the borders. That is why I am here to invite you…We know that our time has come.”
Modi’s comments on the economy come a week after his government eased foreign direct investment norms in 15 major sectors, partly in response to a humiliating defeat in elections in Bihar that sparked fears that he may have lost the political initiative to push bold economic reforms.
Several measures pushed by his government, including a planned law that would make it easier for business houses to acquire farmland for development projects, have been stuck in Parliament due to a pushback by opposition parties.
To buttress his point that India was open for business, Modi listed several big ticket infrastructure projects that are in the pipeline. He said 50 cities across India are preparing to build metro rail systems while there is a need to build 50 million affordable houses, including 29.5 million homes in rural areas.
The country also has plans to generate 175 GW of renewable energy and increase the share of manufacturing to 25% of the GDP to create more than a billion new jobs, he said.
Describing India and ASEAN as natural partners, he reiterated his message that the 21st century belongs to Asia. “Reform to me is just a way station on the long journey to the destination. The destination is the transformation of India,” he told the gathering.
The government intends to achieve all these targets within a “short span of time” and is also working to make India the “easiest place to do business”, he said.
“Our democratic values and an alert judicial system ensure the safety of your investments,” he said.
India, he added, is also committed to protecting the intellectual property rights of all innovators and has launched campaigns like “Make in India” and “Digital India” to make the country friendly to investors.
He presented several arguments to support his contention that the Indian economy is performing better at a time when the global economy “is not exactly doing well”, saying GDP growth, foreign investments and tax revenues are up while inflation, interest rates and current account deficit are down.