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Shift strategies to achieve required level of growth: Singapore deputy PM’s advice to India

Speaking at the inaugural address at the HT-Mint Asia Leadership Summit held in Singapore on Friday, the deputy PM said next five years are critical for India as the window of opportunity was shrinking

singapore summit Updated: Apr 13, 2018 18:22 IST
Tanu Pandey
Singapore deputy prime minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam indicated that India was on the right trajectory but that it needs to do more in terms of pace and direction and to make a decisive shift in its strategies to escalate to the required level of growth
Singapore deputy prime minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam indicated that India was on the right trajectory but that it needs to do more in terms of pace and direction and to make a decisive shift in its strategies to escalate to the required level of growth(Getty Images)

At a time when the world is witnessing a trade friction between its largest trade economies, the US and China, and Asia looks with bated breath to take cues on the path it has to take, Singapore’s deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam stressed on the need for the region to shift strategies.

The deputy prime minister during his inaugural address at the HT-Mint Asia Leadership Summit held in Singapore on Friday, said there is currently a need for India and many of the Southeast Asian economies to have a three-pronged trade strategy — creation of jobs, air connectivity, and digital innovation and smart cities.

Tharman has some advice for India but caveated by saying that he was offering this as a friend of the country.

He indicated that India was on the right trajectory but that it needs to do more in terms of pace and direction and to make a decisive shift in its strategies to escalate to the required level of growth.

“India needs to create 10 to 12 million new jobs per year. You are currently still far short of that, and it requires new strategies. India has embarked on those new strategies. There has been impressive progress in infrastructure in particular - roads, rail, ports, now airports. There have been improvements in the ease of doing business, and some liberalisation in foreign direct investment rules. But I will have to say quite frankly, that the pace and direction of travel is not enough to create the jobs required,” he added.

The Minister further stressed that there is a need for “a more decisive change”.

He exuded optimism that the change can be brought about. Giving examples of Tata Group, Mahindra & Mahindra and the Hero Group, he added that Indian firms can compete internationally. He noted, however, that manufacturing is not going to achieve the ambitions that India has set up for itself.

During a conversation at the opening session of the event, Shanmugaratnam pointed out that for countries to move beyond trade wars, there needs to be more winners. However, he said, technological change has rendered the window of opportunity much shorter than what it used to be. The next five years are critical for India and parts of Asean that are still not on the manufacturing escalator, he added.

“We have probably peaked with regards to the extent of global trade as a proportion of the global economy. But even at current levels of global trade, even with all the frictions that we see around us, there is still significant scope to export more and import more… the sources of economic dynamism has always been in competition and learning. And it is through trade, and through two-way investment across borders, that we learn the fastest,” Shanmugaratnam said.

“If you look at our part of the world (Asia), we are still far away from realizing the potential of manufacturing. Most specially, in India and some parts of the Asean...It can be done but there has to be a sense of urgency because the window of opportunity is much smaller to get on that escalator,” he said.