Investment in India 'boosted by reforms'

 India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivers an address at a community event in Singapore on Nov 24, 2015.
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivers an address at a community event in Singapore on Nov 24, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

S'pore and India can work together in many promising areas, Modi tells business leaders

A medley of reforms has boosted India's attractiveness as an investment destination with an unparalleled customer base, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told company bosses here yesterday.

The Indian government is working hard to ensure its tax regime is transparent and predictable, and it has greatly relaxed conditions for foreign direct investment (FDI).

"(Singapore) is an exciting incubator and India is a vast laboratory. Singapore and India can work together in many promising areas."

Mr Modi was speaking to delegates from more than 300 firms from the two countries at the India- Singapore Economic Convention at Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

Singapore is India's 10th largest trade partner and its No. 2 source of FDI, with bilateral trade surging since the 2005 Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement. India was Singapore's 12th largest trading partner last year.

Singapore is India's 10th largest trade partner and its No. 2 source of FDI, with bilateral trade surging since the 2005 Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement.

In the past 10 years, Singapore's trade with India doubled from $11.8 billion to $24.6 billion while its investments in India grew from $653 million to $12.2 billion, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran said in an earlier address.

Mr Modi said a significant number of Indian companies are registered here, while Singapore firms have been involved in the Indian market over the past 20 years. "Our companies are positioned to explore and develop promising engagements," he said. For instance, Singapore's Surbana Jurong is involved in master planning for Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh state's new capital. Last month, Mr Modi laid the foundation stone for the fourth container terminal at India's busiest port, Jawaharlal Nehru Port, which is being developed by a PSA International unit.

The Indian government is also exploring a collaboration with Changi Airport to operate two of its airports in India, he added.

In a further sign of economic engagement, Singapore could also be among the nations where it will launch rupee-dominated bonds to finance infrastructure investments.

Companies at the convention largely cheered recent reforms.

DBS Bank was looking for a country to launch a mobile online bank, and chose to set up the "digibank" in India, ahead of China, Indonesia and even Singapore, DBS Group Holdings chief executive officer Piyush Gupta said at a panel discussion. "(We did so as) the framework which had been established in India for electronic know-your-customer and payments is much speedier than anyone else's in Asia."

However, India's banking sector remains somewhat challenged, with significant non-performing loans in the system. "Despite the large capital allocation for the country, the banks are still not adequately capitalised," he noted.

In the real estate space, Ascendas, which built the first business park in India in 1994, noted India's desire and potential to grow its manufacturing sector, which bodes well for business space. "We believe in the future of India and are committed to growing in the country," said Mr Manohar Khiatani, president and group CEO of Ascendas and deputy group chief executive officer of Ascendas-Singbridge.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2015, with the headline 'Investment in India 'boosted by reforms''. Print Edition | Subscribe