NEW DELHI – Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Friday (Aug 26) urged India to further quicken the pace of economic reforms, saying the South Asian country needed to grow by 8 per cent to 10 per cent over the next 20 years to create jobs and ensure greater prosperity.
Mr Tharman, who is on a visit to India, was delivering the inaugural lecture titled “Fulfilling India’s Potential in the Global Economy” as part of a series on Transforming India by government think-tank NITI Aayog.
"India has the largest unfulfilled potential among the major nations. It needs to grow by 8 per cent to 10 per cent if it is to create jobs for a youthful population, to reduce the extensive under-employment of its population, and to achieve inclusive growth by enabling more of the large low-income group become middle-income," said Mr Tharman to an audience of the entire Indian Cabinet, top federal and state-level bureaucrats and intellectuals in India's capital New Delhi.
"The reform agenda is largely unfinished and the pace of change has to be stepped up to achieve these goals.”
India recently passed the Goods and Services Tax to bring in a unified tax market but is still to reform areas like land acquisition and labour, as well as cut down bureaucratic red tape.
The lecture series, conceptualised to invite leaders to speak on India and provide ideas, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Mr Modi in his opening remarks explained his choice of inviting Mr Tharman to kickstart the series.
“One of the greatest reformers and administrators of our time was Lee Kuan Yew, who transformed Singapore to what it is today. It is therefore fitting that we are inaugurating this series with Shri Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore.”
India and Singapore have had traditionally close economic and political ties but these have grown even more since the signing of a Comprehensive Economic Co-operation Agreement in 2005. Trade reached US$15 billion in 2015-16 according to Indian government figure and, during Mr Modi’s visit to Singapore in November 2015, the bilateral relationship was upgraded to a strategic partnership.
Mr Tharman – who was also in India in April to address a symposium with Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan – is scheduled to meet India's top leadership during his visit.
On Thursday (Aug 25), he called on Mr Modi, who offered condolences over the death of former Singapore president S R Nathan.
During the meeting, Mr Tharman briefed him on the status of various joint initiatives between the two countries, especially in the areas of skill development and smart cities, according to a press note from the Indian Prime Minister’s Office.
Singapore is helping India develop two townships and set up a skills centre in the northern desert state of Rajasthan. It is also assisting Andhra Pradesh state in building its new capital city Amaravati.
During their meeting, Mr Modi also told Mr Tharman that he was “keenly looking forward” to a visit of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to India in October this year.
Correction note: This article has been edited for clarity.