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Manmohan urges Diaspora to invest in a new India

Speaking at the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas, the PM asks them to take full advantage of the opportunities India has to offer.

india Updated: Jan 07, 2007 21:23 IST

India's booming economy has created opportunity for greater flow of trade, capital and technology, the prime minister said on Sunday as he urged the 25 million-strong Diaspora to invest in the country.

Manmohan Singh also told a conference that India planned to set up a body to provide investment advice to overseas Indians.

India needs investment worth $1.5 trillion in next five years to improve infrastructure, and raise manufacturing capacity and farm output to sustain eight to 10 per cent growth.

About $72 billion has to come from abroad, as the cash-strapped government needs to spend more on social projects like education and health.

"India has now emerged as one of the fastest growing economies in the world. I would like overseas Indian communities to take full advantage of these opportunities," Singh said.

"I would like you to reach out and invest in a new India."

India's gross domestic product (GDP) grew by an annualised 9.1 per cent during April-September, and policymakers expect it to grow on an average of nine per cent in the next five years.

About 1,200 non-residents are in New Delhi for the annual event, which aims at encouraging the Diaspora spread over 130 countries to contribute more to India's development.

"Invest not just financially, but intellectually, socially, culturally and above all emotionally," Singh said.

More benefits

Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi said that India planned to offer more benefits to those who are part of an Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) scheme - currently numbering over 90,000.

"I am happy to announce three new benefits: parity with Indians on inter-country adoption, parity in domestic air fares and parity in entry fees for national parks and wildlife sanctuaries," he said.

The scheme does not give full citizenship rights as the Indian constitution does not allow for dual nationality, but allows OCI's to invest in assets like stocks, property and non-agricultural land.

Ravi said the government was also looking at other benefits, including allowing overseas Indian doctors to practise in India.

India has signed an agreement exempting Indians working in Belgium on a contract of up to 60 months from making contributions in the host country, he said.

This would make Indian companies more competitive since exemption from contributions in respect of their employees would substantially reduce costs, the minister added.

Last week, India announced it would amend laws to allow Indian passport holders living overseas the right to vote. Currently, only passport holders residing in India can vote.

While delegates welcomed the new initiatives, they said India needed to do more.

"We are proud of India ... and we feel good that we are being encourage to participate, but if we are to invest then the red tape and bottlenecks need to be done away with," said a United States-based manufacturer of sanitary products.

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